New Search Patents: April 18, 2006 - Is That A Tricorder In Your Pocket?

There were 4251 patents granted on April 18, 2006. Following are five that looked like good candidates for my first post on search patents as SEW's new patents correspondent. They include a Yahoo patent on money exchanges; a Google patent on controlling access to documents based on URLs, another on personalizing results; Gateway's social tagging-like patent and a GeoVector's patent on a rudimentary tricorder-like device.

Before jumping into them, a couple of words about patents. Some of the processes and technology described in patents are created in house. Some are developed with the assistance of contractors and partners. Some are never developed in a tangible manner, but may serve as a way to attempt to exclude others from using the technology, or even to possibly mislead competitors into exploring an area that they might not have an interest in (sometimes skepticism is good.)

There are times when a Google or Yahoo acquires a company to gain access to the intellectual property of that company, or the intellectual prowess and expertise of that company's employees. And sometimes patents are just purchased.

Google and Yahoo both were granted patents on this day, and perhaps the most interesting things about these particular patents is how they came to those companies. A couple of other patents from the USPTO came out on the morning of the 18th, and may play a role in the development of search and the web.

Yahoo

Back in March 2000, Yahoo fueled a firestorm with the acquisition of Arthas, which owned an ecommerce payment service operated under the name Dotbank. The patent issued to Yahoo, Systems and methods for implementing person-to-person money exchange, includes the name of the co-founder of Arthas amongst the inventors on the document. The Dotbank site closed shortly after the Yahoo purchase, and Yahoo Paydirect opened a few months later. The service never achieved the popularity of a PayPal, and was officially dead by 2004. Will it be resurrected with the granting of this patent? I'm a little skeptical.


Google

Infoseek launched their search service back in 1995, went public in 1996, and by 1997 they were being visited by over 7 million people a month. A patent application that they filed back in September of 1997, Document retrieval system with access control, was granted patent status today. Like many of the patents originally filed by Infoseek, this one now belongs to Google, after an assignment last October. The abstract:

An electonic document retrieval system and method for a collection of information distributed over a network having documents stored in web or document servers in which an access control list relates user identification to documents to which a user has access. No access control lists are contained in the documents themselves nor are comparisons made between lists of users, with their access levels, and the classifications of documents. Rather, by the use of URLs or pointers, it is possible to associate every document to which a user has access with the user identification number or code. URLs have a hierarchical format which allows partial URLs to indicate levels of access. HTTP protocol, FTP and CGI protocol employ URL calls for documents and can use the access control method and system of the present invention. When a search query is applied to a query server, a list of hits is returned, together with pertinent URLs. The query server consults each access control list associated with each document server, to present to the user only those URLs for which he has a proper access level. Other URLs for which the user does not have proper access are kept hidden from the user.


Outride, Inc., was a spinoff from Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center specializing in personalization and search, and James E. Pitow was the president and the co-founder of the company. Hinrich Schuetze was the vice president of the of Outride. Google purchased the technology assets of Outride back in 2001. One of the original Outride patent applications, System and method for searching and recommending objects from a categorically organized information repository, invented by Pitow and Schuetze, was also granted patent status. The abstract:


A search and recommendation system employs the preferences and profiles of individual users and groups within a community of users, as well as information derived from categorically organized content pointers, to augment Internet searches, re-rank search results, and provide recommendations for objects based on an initial subject-matter query. The search and recommendation system operates in the context of a content pointer manager, which stores individual users' content pointers (some of which may be published or shared for group use) on a centralized content pointer database connected to the Internet. The shared content pointer manager is implemented as a distributed program, portions of which operate on users' terminals and other portions of which operate on the centralized content pointer database. A user's content pointers are organized in accordance with a local topical categorical hierarchy. The hierarchical organization is used to define a relevance context within which returned objects are evaluated and ordered.

Gateway

When I think Web 2.0 and social search, I think tagging. But I don't think Gateway. Or at least I didn't until I read the title to this patent, Tagging content for different activities. It focuses more upon playlists, music, and videos rather than web pages, but the timing of this patent is interesting considering the growth in tagging since it was originally filed on March 30, 2001. The abstract:

The present invention is directed to a system and method for classification of media content based upon user-defined classifications. A compilation of media content in conformity with the user-defined classifications and desired criteria may be automatically produced in accordance with the present invention. The system and method of the present invention may also be capable of selecting pieces of media content depending upon the user's mood and current activity.

GeoVector Corp

I haven't seen much Star Trek over the past few years, but when I started reading this new patent from Geovector Corp, the word "Tricorder" instantly came into my head. Pointing systems for addressing objects has a science fiction feel to it, but it appears that the technology described will be up and running in Japan sometime soon. The abstract:

Systems are arranged to provide a user information which relates to objects of interest. A user may point a hand held device toward an object to address it. The device determines which objects are being addressed by making position and attitude measurements and further a reference and search of a database containing preprogrammed information relating to objects. Information relating to objects determined as objects presently being addressed is thereafter presented at a user interface. Devices of these systems include a point reference, a direction reference, a position determining support, attitude determining support, a computer processor and database, and a user interface. Methods of systems include the steps of addressing an object, determining position and attitude, searching a database, and presenting information to a user.

I'll be looking at some new patent applications later in the week, and some other recently issued patents.

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