New Search Patent Applications: October 6, 2006 – Google Takes Over the Patent Office

There were some interesting new patent applications this week from Yahoo, Microsoft, and IBM, but nothing on the scale of the outpouring of intellectual property published and assigned to Google – I uncovered 15 new patent applications from the Mountain View search giant. I’ll address patent applications from those others in a later post. This post looks at Google’s filings.

Some of the topics covered include:

  • Natural language questions and answers from a search engine,
  • Query rankings and mid-page refinements,
  • A detailed personalization system,
  • Advertising and email contacts amongst members of a social network,
  • Bringing together advertisers and advertising agents,
  • Addressing different audience segments with ads,
  • Improving the value of pay-per-impression advertising,
  • Data embedded in hardware devices to help target advertisments, and;
  • Sharing Settings and other data across browsers (and Office applications).

A Question Answering Search

I thought of Danny’s post from yesterday, Hello Natural Language Search, My Old Over-Hyped Search Friend, when reading this patent application. Will people ask actual questions to a search engine if the anticipate that they will receive relevant answers? Here’s an exploration of that question:

User interface for facts query engine with snippets from information sources that include query terms and answer terms
Invented by Andrew William Hogue
US Patent Application 20060224582
Published October 5, 2006
Filed: March 31, 2005


A method and a system for providing snippets of source documents of an answer to a fact query are disclosed. Snippets of source documents may be provided in response to a user request for the source documents from which the fact answer to a fact query was extracted. The snippets include the terms of the fact query and terms of the answer. The snippets may be displayed along with Uniform Resource Locators (URL’s) of the source documents.

Middle Page Query Refinements

Danny also mentioned in his rant the need for better query refinements, and how Google has been offering them for a couple of years. (His timing is pretty good.)

Just how does Google decide to present some of the suggested alternative queries that it shows in the middle of some results pages? What triggers their appearance, and determines which queries and results appear? How are alternative queries ranked?

I examined this patent filing in considerable detail at SEO by the Sea, in a post titled Google’s Query Rank, and Query Revisions on Search Result Pages.

Query revision using known highly-ranked queries
Invented by David R. Bailey, Alexis J. Battle, David Ariel Cohn, Barbara Engelhardt, P. Pandurang Nayak
US Patent Application 20060224554
Published October 5, 2006
Filed: November 22, 2005


An information retrieval system includes a query revision architecture providing one or more query revisers, each of which implements a query revision strategy. A query rank reviser suggests known highly-ranked queries as revisions to a first query by initially assigning a rank to all queries, and identifying a set of known highly-ranked queries (KHRQ). Queries with a strong probability of being revised to a KHRQ are identified as nearby queries (NQ). Alternative queries that are KHRQs are provided as candidate revisions for a given query. For alternative queries that are NQs, the corresponding known highly-ranked queries are provided as candidate revisions.

Google Personalization

After more than a few hours, I’m just partially into breaking down the processes described in the following six patent applications detailing some of the things that Google is looking at in a personalized search system. They share a single detailed (and long) description and abstract, and were all originally filed on March 31, 2005 and published on October 5, 2006. The claims section in each application different and explain how the different documents play a role in the overall personalization scheme.

Systems and methods for analyzing a user’s web history
Invented by Andrew Fikes, Jeffrey L. Korn, Oren E. Zamir, Lilly Christine Irani
US Patent Application 20060224583

Systems and methods for modifying search results based on a user’s history
Invented by Oren E. Zamir, Jeffrey L. Korn, and Andrew Fikes
US Patent Application 20060224587

Systems and methods for combining sets of favorites
Invented Oren E. Zamir, Jeffrey L. Korn, and Andrew Fikes
US Patent Application 20060224608

Systems and methods for providing subscription-based personalization
Invented by Jeffrey L. Korn, Oren E. Zamir, and Andrew Fikes
US Patent Application 20060224615

Systems and methods for managing multiple user accounts
Invented by Jeffrey L. Korn, Oren E. Zamir, and Andrew Fikes
US Patent Application 20060224624

Systems and methods for providing a graphical display of search activity
Invented Andrew Fikes, Jeffrey L. Korn, Oren E. Zamir, and Lilly Christine Irani, Avni Upendra Shah
US Patent Application 20060224938


A user’s prior searching and browsing activities are recorded for subsequent use. A user may examine the user’s prior searching and browsing activities in a number of different ways, including indications of the user’s prior activities related to advertisements. A set of search results may be modified in accordance with the user’s historical activities. The user’s activities may be examined to identify a set of preferred locations. The user’s set of activities may be shared with one or more other users. The set of preferred locations presented to the user may be enhanced to include the preferred locations of one or more other users. A user’s browsing activities may be monitored from one or more different client devices or client application. A user’s browsing volume may be graphically displayed.

Social Networks

Both of these next two documents mention Orkut, as well as some other social networks.

Methods and systems for member-created advertisement in a member network
Invented by Kevin David Fox
US Patent Application 20060224446
Published October 5, 2006
Filed: March 29, 2005


Methods and systems for members of a member network to create and target advertisement to other members of the member network. A member can target advertisement to other members in the member network by establishing a member profile that includes associations and/or nexuses with the targeted members. Fees can be charged to members who create and disseminate advertisement to other members in the member network.

Methods and systems for providing current email addresses and contact information for members within a social network
Invented by Kevin David Fox and Duane Scott Hess
US Patent Application 20060224675
Published October 5, 2006
Filed: March 30, 2005


Methods and systems for providing current email addresses or contact information to members within a social network are described. In one described method, an email program application requests an email address for a member within a social network. Using profile information associated with the member, the email address is provided to the email program application which sent the request. The email address is then entered into the send-to parameter field of an email message. In another described method, contact information associated with a first member of a social can be provided to a second member of the social network. The contact information is provided if the relationship between the first and second members is an authorized relationship. The contact information associated with the first member can be used to update the contact information for the first member in an electronic address book associated with the second member.


Some past patent applications made it appear that Google wanted to help make it easier for advertisers to create their own advertising campaigns and ad copy. This next document looks instead at making it easier for advertisers to find people willing to help them with those activities.

Networking advertisers and agents for ad authoring and/or ad campaign management
Invented by Ross Koningstein and Sumit Agarwal
US Patent Application 20060224444
Published October 5, 2006
Filed: March 30, 2005


As online ads are becoming technically and artistically more sophisticated, advertisers will need a way to efficiently request assistance with ad creations that offer richer ad formats. An online ad business environment helps connect advertisers with ad service providers (also called agents or advisors) who can meet their needs for more complex and sophisticated ad creatives. The online ad business network may use a job listing board where advertisers can enter request for assistance and agent can view them. The business network may also include an agent directory where agents can post their profiles and services and advertisers can view them. Using the job listing board and agent directory, advertisers and agent can contact each other through contact operations available in the business network, and enter into business relationships. A payment from an advertiser to an agent may be made via the business network. The amount of compensation paid to the agent by the business network need not be equal to the amount of payment received by the advertiser.

How helpful would it be if it were easier to understand and manage the serving of ads based upon different audience segments and factors like different geographic areas, different times, different user devices, different audience demographics, etc.?

Automated offer management using audience segment information
Invented by Ross Koningstein
US Patent Application 20060224447
Published October 5, 2006
Filed: March 31, 2005


An advertiser’s management of an advertising campaign may be assisted by (a) accepting information defining a plurality of audience segments to which an advertisement may be served, (b) accepting a first offer, and (c) determining, using the first offer, a second offer associated with at least one of the plurality of audience segments. The act of determining a second offer associated with one of the plurality of audience segments may use an indication of value assigned to the one audience segment. The indication of value may be automatically determined, and/or provided by an advertiser. The indication of value may be expressed as functions, rules, and/or parameter values. The information defining a plurality of audience segments may be one or more of (a) location information, (b) user information, (c) temporal information, and (d) client device information.

Can something be done to improve the value of pay-per-impression advertising? That’s the topic of this next patent application.

Adjusting an advertising cost, such as a per-ad impression cost, using a likelihood that the ad will be sensed or perceived by users
Invented by Brian Axe, Gregory Joseph Badros, and Rama Ranganath
US Patent Application 20060224445
Published October 5, 2006
Filed: March 30, 2005


A price paid for an ad impression may be adjusted using an estimated probability that the ad will be viewed, or otherwise perceived or sensed, or using one or more factors which may be used to estimate such a probability. The price and/or probability may be adjusted using events occurring after the impression of the ad.

Data can be embedded in hardware, such as digital cameras and PDAs, and identified in software that can help an advertiser target the users of those devices. For example, I may take pictures with my camera, and then upload the images to the web with a program like Picasa, or send them to someone through Gmail. The data from the device may be included in metadata from the pictures, and might be used to send me advertisements related to my camera in some way. That’s the area that this next patent application covers.

System and method for obtaining content based on data from an electronic device
Invented by Michael Bryan Herf
US Patent Application 20060224448
Published October 5, 2006
Filed: March 31, 2005


In one embodiment, data from an electronic device is identified. The data may describe an electronic device (e.g. a hardware or software device) on which a document was created or modified, the subject matter of a document, the state of a document, or the like. Content relating to the electronic device is obtained based on the data. The content may be obtained in response to viewing, editing, printing, emailing or other accessing and/or processing of the document.

Sharing setting information and other data across browsers

Browsers collect a lot of information, such as bookmarks, security settings, web surfing history, autocomplete information, password data, location of toolbars information, and much more. It would be great to have an easy way to share this kind of information between browsers on different computers or on the same computer, to different versions of the same browser, or to different browsers (such as between Internet Explorer and Firefox. The techniques involved might even be applied to other types of applications, such as transferring settings between Microsoft Word to Powerpoint.

No mention of Google Office applications are made here, and the patent application was originally filed over a year ago, but the thought crosses my mind that it might be helpful to copy settings from Word to Writely, or from Excel to Google Spreadsheets.

Method and system for transferring web browser data between web browsers
Invented by David Marmaros
US Patent Application 20060224967
Published October 5, 2006
Filed: March 31, 2005


In one embodiment, a method for transferring web browser data between web browsers includes collecting browser data pertaining to a first web browser, packaging the browser data into an intermediate format, and storing the packaged data for a subsequent import into a second web browser.

My usual reminder about patents: Some of the processes and technology described in patents are created in house, and some are developed with the assistance of contractors and partners. A percentage 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.

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