Gary Price -- awesome sleuth that is he -- was doing some searching of the US Patent Office & Trademark Office database yesterday and noticed that Ask Jeeves filed for a trademark, a service mark to be accurate, for the term "ExpertRank" about a week ago. Perhaps the sign of a new branding campaign to come?
Ask Jeeves won't comment on what this means, but Gary reminded me that Teoma means "expert" in Gaelic. Teoma is the company Ask Jeeves bought in 2001 and the name of the search technology Ask Jeeves uses for its search results. I even joked earlier about how in the UK, Ask Jeeves has been branding its service as having "new Teoma technology."
So how about some speculation? Many are familiar with the "Intel Inside" branding campaign that Intel has run for years. You never see an Intel chip when you're using a computer, but the company wants you to have the notion that it's a good thing so you'll seek out Intel machines.
The search wars have their own sort of Intel Inside branding that's heating up. Google's long trotted out PageRank as its form of under-the-hood tech that should wow consumers. A few months ago, MSN rolled out its Neural Net technology as both a way to improve its results and to help counter the notion of Google having all the secret search sauce.
Teoma's long been the secret sauce for Ask, and ExpertRank sounds like a rebranding of that (rather than some new tech) to help Ask Jeeves compete with PageRank Inside and Neural Net Inside.
Where's Yahoo in all of this? It did roll out a Web Rank idea almost two years ago, but that never caught on or was seriously promoted by the company. But if Yahoo's going to face PageRank Inside, Neural Net Inside and ExpertRank Inside, it's almost a foregone conclusion it will look for something with a little more oomph than just saying it's Yahoo Search Technology Inside, as they did launching when launching Yahoo's own technology in early 2004.
Hmm -- maybe My Rank? Since's Yahoo's big on the entire My Web concept, I can see it now: "New Yahoo Search with My Web And My Rank Technology."Postscript from Gary: Let's not forget that Google trademarked/service marked the term "TrustRank" earlier this year. Also, keeping with the "rank" theme, Topix.net registered the service mark "NewsRank" last year. They also have the service mark "National Network for Local News" registered with the USPTO.