Internet technology major Yahoo Inc has received a setback in India with the country’s patent office refusing a patent for its ‘invention’ regarding a method for displaying online presence of users of an instant messaging (IM) system.
The Chennai patent office, before which the patent application came up, rejected Yahoo’s plea, primarily referring to Section K (3) of the Indian Patent Act which provides that a mathematical or business method, or a computer programme per se, or algorithm, was not patentable unless embedded in hardware.
A Raja, assistant controller of patents and designs, Chennai, while refusing the patent, said the claims in the patent application seek to protect a method of scheduling and displaying an online presence status of a user of an instant messaging application, in which only the algorithmic steps are involved, defined and incorporated. He said the subject matter falls within the scope of such Clause K of Section 3 of the Patents Act, 1970.
The assistant controller further said the presence of hardware presence management server — containing processor and memory — does not make the claim patent-eligible under Section 3(K) of the Patents Act.
“Hence, it has been arrived at a conclusion that the subject matter of the alleged invention directly invokes the attention of Section 3(K) of the Patents Act 1970 and thereby not allowable. These claims do not constitute of patentable subject matter and purely relate to algorithmic steps, software and presentation of information,” he said.
Generally, instant messaging (IM) system allows users to exchange information , such as text messages, files, voice and videos in real time. The information exchanges occur between two or more people, who log into a particular IM service or IM services that interface with one another.
According to a patent document filed by Yahoo, most IM services offer presence (or status) information features, which indicate whether a user is currently online and available to exchange information or is offline and unavailable. These IM systems allow a user to manually set an online presence (or status) or away message so peers are notified when the user is available, busy or away from the computer, after user logs into IM system.
The IM systems, generally, set a user to be offline (or unavailable) when the user logs off system. Some IM system also allows an user to appear offline while the user actually logs in to the system. However, manually setting an online presence or away message is undesirable, since it requires extra effort of a user to remember to take such an action.
Yahoo’s IM system, for which a patent was sought, provide methods which allow users to schedule routine online presence information to let outside world to see the users appearing to be online or offline at a particular day and time.