Facebook Founder Receives Patent on His First Application

By Gene Quinn
July 24, 2012

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, circa 2005.

One week ago Mark Zuckerberg, the famed founder of Facebook.com, received U.S. Patent No. 8,225,376 titled “Dynamically generating a privacy summary.”  The patent relates to a system and method that automatically generates a privacy summary.  In the method according to one particular implementation of the invention, a profile for a user is generated, one or more privacy setting selections are received from the user, and the profile associated with the user is updated to incorporate the privacy setting selections. A privacy summary is then generated for the profile based on the privacy setting selections.

Although this is not the first patent awarded to Zuckerberg, who now has 10 issued U.S. patents, this patent is noteworthy because it relates to the the first patent application filed by Zuckerberg, which was filed almost six years ago, on July 25, 2006.  According to the Issue Notification, the patent is entitled to Patent Term Adjustment of 1258 days.

The Notice of Allowability explains that the patent was ultimately issued after an interview that lead to an Examiner’s Amendment.  Independent claims 1, 18 and 16 were amended by Examiner’s Amendment, as well as dependent claims 23-25.  Dependent claims 23-25 were all canceled, which lead the application to contain only allowed claims, thereby leading to issuance.

The Examiner’s Amendment was rather extensive, adding quite a bit of new language to each of the independent claims.  The amendment to claim 1 is illustrative of the limitations that put these claims over the top for patentability purposes:

1. (Currently Amended) A method for dynamically generating a privacy summary comprising:

accessing a profile for a user stored in an electronic database;

presenting a first user interface to the user;

receiving, via the first user interface, a plurality of privacy setting selections provided by from the user using the first user interface, whirring the privacy settings selections identify, for each of a plurality of different categories of information associated with the user, one or more other users who can access that category of information;

updating the profile associated with the user to incorporate the plurality of privacy setting selections;

generating, by a processor, a narrative explanation of which other users can access which categories of information based on the privacy settings selections, wherein generating the narrative explanation comprises, for one or more of the privacy settings selections, selecting a narrative explanation template based on the privacy settings selection, wherein the narrative explanation template comprises text that identifies a group of other users who can access a category of information about the user profile based on the privacy settings selection; and

providing the narrative explanation to the user associated with the provide in a second user interface after receiving the privacy setting selections [[via]] provided using the first user interface.

In addition to the aforementioned patent, the “Zuckerberg” U.S. patent portfolio now includes the following issued patents:

Dynamically providing a news feed about a user of a social network
U.S. Patent No. 7,669,123

Managing information about relationships in a social network via a social timeline
U.S. Patent No. 7,725,492

Generating segmented community flyers in a social networking system
U.S. Patent No. 7,797,256

Tagging digital media
U.S. Patent No. 7,945,653

Display panel of a programmed computer system with a graphical user interface
U.S. Design Patent No. D652424

Managing information about relationships in a social network via a social timeline
U.S. Patent No. 8,099,433

Display panel of a programmed computer system with a graphical user interface
U.S. Design Patent No. D653258

Display panel of a programmed computer system with a graphical user interface
U.S. Design Patent No. D653671

Communicating a newsfeed of media content based on a member’s interactions…
U.S. Patent No. 8,171,128

While this may seem like a long list of patents, Facebook has an astonishingly small number of patents that relate to innovations and technologies developed by the company itself.  Several months ago TechCrunch wrote this of Facebook’s growing patent portfolio and internal patent application production:

In the past few months, Facebook’s patent portfolio has grown exponentially as a result of acquisitions of patent portfolios from IBM and Microsoft. After acquiring 650 AOL patents and patent applications from Microsoft, the company now has approximately 1,400 patent assets. Amazingly, only 46 of these assets (24 issued patents and 22 published applications) were originally filed by Facebook.

Since this TechCrunch story ran on April 27, 2012, the number of issued U.S. patents assigned to Facebook has grown to 38.  Still, for a tech company the size of Facebook this is a paltry number.  If Facebook is going to stay where it is they are going to have to continue to acquire patent assets and really change the internal culture to one that is innovative.  You can only rely on the Applications of others for so long, particularly when those developers are the ones who own the underlying intellectual property in those Apps.

If Facebook does not evolve into a true and legitimate technology company their days are numbered. There will undoubtedly be some who will ridicule me for such a prediction, but all you have to do is look at history.  It is far more likely that Facebook will become a forgotten company that it is that they will stand the test of time and remain dominant.  As government regulators continue to look into Facebook’s privacy practices and they are confronted with more patent disputes, the company focus will become distracted and it doesn’t seem to me that the corporate culture relative to innovation will support any level of real distraction without severe consequences.

The Author

Gene Quinn

Gene Quinn is a Patent Attorney and Editor and President & CEO ofIPWatchdog, Inc.. Gene founded IPWatchdog.com in 1999. Gene is also a principal lecturer in the PLI Patent Bar Review Course and Of Counsel to the law firm of Berenato & White, LLC. Gene’s specialty is in the area of strategic patent consulting, patent application drafting and patent prosecution. He consults with attorneys facing peculiar procedural issues at the Patent Office, advises investors and executives on patent law changes and pending litigation matters, and works with start-up businesses throughout the United States and around the world, primarily dealing with software and computer related innovations. is admitted to practice law in New Hampshire, is a Registered Patent Attorney and is also admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. CLICK HERE to send Gene a message.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author as of the time of publication and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

Discuss this

There are currently 9 Comments comments.

  1. MaxDrei July 24, 2012 8:25 am

    Agreed, that if you want to stay ahead you have to be innovative. While Apple loses utility and design patent cases in Europe, Apple still shifts as much product as ever, and the English patents court judge still holds that the Samsung products are not as “cool” as those of Apple.

    So, Gene, is it sufficient if one can be ever-innovative and remain ever-cooler than the competition?

    Or is ongoing dominance impossible, absent a big swinging (and self-generated) patent portfolio?

    I ask because all but one of Zuckerberg’ EPO patent applications shows up on the online EPO register as “withdrawn”.

  2. Daniel Taylor July 24, 2012 9:28 am

    Gene –

    Most technology companies spend 11% of revenues on R&D. And in their Feb 2012 S-1, Facebook is showing $388 million in R&D for $3.71 billion in revenues, or 10.5%. So that’s about right.

    Your assignment search raises a question that’s been troubling me as well. 39 assigned patents (as of this morning) and 25 published applications, though there’s some overlap between these two groups of documents. What doesn’t make sense is the thing Facebook was saying back in February:

    “As of December 31, 2011, we had 56 issued patents and 503 filed patent applications in the United States and 33 corresponding patents and 149 filed patent applications in foreign countries relating to social networking, web technologies and infrastructure, and related technologies. Our issued patents expire between May 2016 and June 2031.”

    If Facebook had 56 issued patents in December 2011, why are there fewer today? Did Facebook sell patents? And what happened to the patents Facebook supposedly acquired in the interim?

    Guess it’s time to fire up PAIR and find the paper trail.

  3. Anon July 24, 2012 9:53 am


    Having a background in business development (including tech start-ups), the best answer to your question is that the question itself is not the right question to ask.

    Translating to the legalspeak: it depends.

    From a business perspective, patents are a tool and only one tool. Their are places and times to wield that tool. Your question cannot be answered in a vacuum because the answer is intertwined with what the competition is doing, what the current state of technology is, and the acceleration factor of how technology is changing (and even to the unknowable – but from a business perspective, definitely contemplated) how technology may shift in both the near and mid terms.

    Yesterday’s coolest can quite easily become tomorrow’s dinosaur. Patents have their place, but there is no be-all one and only item that would answer your quest with success.

  4. Daniel Taylor July 24, 2012 9:54 am

    PAIR shows 1,464 patents and published patent applications assigned to Facebook. The tranche from IBM appears to have been recorded in April 2012, and the ones from AOL arrived earlier this month.

  5. Anon July 24, 2012 10:42 am


    Can you break down the numbers a little bit more? How many before the IBM and AOL ones? How many for the IBM ones? For the AOL ones?


  6. John Spevacek July 24, 2012 2:07 pm


    We can relax about Facebook. One of the 38 patents you found is this: US 8,206,071 Cabinet anchor bolt assembly. Now that’s going to be extremely valuable down the road!

  7. Mark Nowotarski July 25, 2012 12:25 pm

    As of December 31, 2011, we had 56 issued patents and 503 filed patent applications in the United States
    I don’t know about the missing issued patents, but a substantial number of those 503 patent applications may have been filed with nonpublication requests. We won’t see them until if/when they issue as US patents. This is happening in the insurance industry where at least one company, USAA, has been quietly building a defensive patent portfolio by filing hundreds of patent applications with nonpublication requests. These didn’t start emerging until 4 – 5 years after they were filed. See “USAA Patents” at http://www.bakosenterprises.com/IP/B-08152011/IPB-08152011.html. Since Facebook’s innovations are primarily in the field of software and business methods, they may be doing the same thing.

  8. Spartina July 25, 2012 10:46 pm

    Speaking of Facebook and patents, anyone care to comment on the information being published by Donna Kline? http://www.donnaklinenow.com

    Here blog goes way back and is startling, to say the least.

  9. patent litigation July 29, 2012 3:02 pm

    I agree that Facebook will have to make some significant changes in order to avoid irrelevance in the very near future. Forming advertising partnerships with Wal-mart and Yahoo! and purchasing the patent portfolios of other countries can’t serve as long-term substitutes for innovation.