Microsoft is seeking a patent for "One-Way Public Relationships" in social networks and other online properties. Even though you've probably never heard or used that phrase, chances are you're involved in many of these types of relationships already. That's because it's more commonly known as being a "fan" of something online.
Here's an excerpt from the abstract:
In an implementation, a control is exposed that is operable to become a fan of an object within a social networking page. Responsive to operation of the control, data may be stored to establish a one-way public relationship between a user and the selected object. By establishing a one-way public relationship rather than a mutual friend relationship, the object and/or a corresponding owner of the object is not included in the user's social network and is not provided access to the user's profile, status, or other personal information. The one-way public relationship may be employed by a service provider to serve content related to the object to the user. The one-way public relationships may also be employed by the service provider to push status updates regarding the object to "fans" of the object.
[tags]relationship,social media,social network[/tags]