New Search Patent Applications: July 5, 2006 – Google Coming to a Shopping Mall Near You

Google files patents for shopping offline with online assistance, a secondary map in Google Maps, and an updated review aggregator. Yahoo adds a patent application for search results PPC advertising, and managing blog content. Microsoft looks to anchor text to help train a machine learning classification system when user behavior data isn’t available. AOL details a method of filtering search results using ontologies and expert domains for queries. IBM explains differences in how images can be indexed, and presents a method based upon the semantic meanings of pictures. Become, Inc., describes how different links can be assigned different values while using a link-based ranking system.


The title to this first patent filing is a little misleading, in that it encompasses a much broader range of activities than just serving coupons or advertising. It’s the first patent filing I’ve seen that includes island resorts, shopping malls, and chinese restaurants as part of the “Exemplary System Architecture.” It’s a shopping system that provides information about offline shopping, including real time data, such as waiting times in lines, menu specials, products and services available by price range and in stock availability, walking directions combined with shopping lists, and much more. Imagine shopping kiosks at your local shopping mall that can be used as part of this system, you have part of the broader picture in place.

Generating and/or serving dynamic promotional offers such as coupons and advertisements
Invented by Ashutosh Garg and Allen Romero
US Patent Application 20060143080
Published on June 29, 2006
Filed on December 29, 2004


A promotional offer may be generated by (i) accepting information concerning at least one of (A) a search query entered, at a client device, by a user, (B) an item or establishment which is the subject of a search result selected by a user using a client device, (C) one or more items or establishments which are elements of a shopping session summary provided to a user via a client device, (ii) determining a promotional offer to serve using at least the accepted search query information, and (iii) determining terms of the promotional offer using at least one of (A) a location of the client device, (B) a distance from the client device to an establishment associated with the promotional offer, and (C) a distance from the client device to an establishment competing with the establishment associated with the promotional offer, (D) an inventory, at an establishment associated with the promotional offer, of the goods which the promotional offer concerns, (E) a capacity, at an establishment associated with the promotional offer, to provide the services which the promotional offer concerns, (F) a level of excess capacity, at an establishment associated with the promotional offer, to provide the services which the promotional offer concerns, (G) a perishability of goods which the promotional offer concerns, and (H) a remaining shelf-life of goods which the promotional offer concerns.

The Google Map team comes out with another patent filing, and this one may have already been implemented in the system. If you’ve seen a second map within a Google Map that allows for moving a view frame, or helping with zooming in on specific areas, you’ll have a sense of what they are describing here.

Secondary map in digital mapping system
Invented by Jens Eilstrup Rasmussen, Bret Steven Taylor, and Lars Eilstrup Rasmussen
US Patent Application 20060139375
Published on June 29, 2006
Filed on December 29, 2005


Digital mapping techniques are disclosed that provide more flexibility to the user through the use of multiple views of map information, including a secondary map and a main map. The secondary map can provide the user with either a zoomed out or in relative to the main map, or a different type of map view (e.g., satellite images). The secondary map can be turned on and off by the user. The secondary map may include one or more viewing frames that indicate views (e.g., current and alternate views) of the main map. The user can move the main map, viewing frame, or secondary map to achieve desired map views. During such movement, the relationship between the main and secondary maps can be synchronous, partially synchronous, or serial.

Very similar to another patent application from a couple of weeks ago, Method and system for finding and aggregating reviews for a product, and filed on the same day, this patent application adds an inventor and some changes to the title, filing class, and some text within the claims and summary. The drawings and detailed description of the process appear to be substantially the same except for renumbering and some very minor edits.

Method, system and graphical user interface for providing reviews for a product
Invented by Jan Matthias Ruhl, Mayur D. Datar, and Jessica Yoko Wai-min Lee
US Patent Application 20060143158
Published on June 29, 2006
Filed on December 14, 2004


The embodiments disclosed herein include new, more efficient ways to collect product reviews from the Internet, aggregate reviews for the same product, and provide an aggregated review to end users in a searchable format. One aspect of the invention is a graphical user interface on a computer that includes a plurality of portions of reviews for a product and a search input area for entering search terms to search for reviews of the product that contain the search terms.


This first Yahoo patent application went quickly from filing to publication in four months. This appears to describe the pay-for-performance search advertising process presently in place on Yahoo.

System and method for influencing a position on a search result list generated by a computer network search engine
Invented by Darren J. Davis, Matthew Derer, Johann Garcia, Larry Greco, Tod E. Kurt, Thomas Kwong, Jonathan C. Lee, Ka Luk Lee, Preston Pfarner, and Steve Skovran
Assigned to Overture Services, Inc.
US Patent Application 20060143096
Published on June 29, 2006
Filed on February 22, 2006


A system and method for enabling information providers using a computer network such as the Internet to influence a position for a search listing within a search result list generated by an Internet search engine. The system and method of the present invention provides a database having accounts for the network information providers. Each account contains at least one search listing having at least three components: a description, a search term comprising one or more keywords, and a bid amount. The network information provider may add, delete, or modify a search listing after logging into his or her account via an authentication process. The network information provider influences the position for a search listing through a continuous online competitive bidding process. The bidding process occurs when the network information provider enters a new bid amount, which is preferably a money amount, for a search listing. The system then compares this bid amount with all other bid amounts for the same search term, and generates a rank value for all search listings having that search term. The rank value generated by the bidding process determines where the network information providers listing will appear on the search results list page that is generated in response to a query of the search term by a searcher located at a client computer on the computer network. A higher bid by a network information provider will result in a higher rank value and a more advantageous placement.

Bitmask access for managing blog content
Invented by Vijay S. Ramachandran and Hitesh S. Shah
Assigned to Yahoo
US Patent Application 20060143208
Published on June 29, 2006
Filed on December 29, 2004


Methods, devices, and systems are directed towards managing a database using moderator determined attributes, and a contributor employable bitmask. In one embodiment, the database is employable for use in managing a weblog (blog). The bitmask is configured to enable contributors of a content item to modify selected options of an attribute for the provided content item. In one embodiment the bitmask is stored in the database and is associated with the content item in the database. By enabling a contributor to directly control options associated with an attribute for the content item, changes to selected attributes of the database’s content may be made with minimum interaction with a database administrator. For example, in one embodiment, the contributor may directly control anonymity associated with the provided content item, access to the provided content item, and how the provided content items is displayed.


Machine learning classifiers may rely upon user behavior such as click-throughs and user reviews to help them rank pages in response to queries. This kind of reliance may mean that pages lacking user behavior information may fail to be ranked, and may not be presented to users so that they can gain that type of feedback. This Microsoft patent application describes the use of a second set of training data that doesn’t depend upon user interaction, but rather looks at anchor text “to be a surrogate for the missing user feedback data.”

System and method for using anchor text as training data for classifier-based search systems
Invented by Harr Chen, Adwait Ratnaparkhi, Sonja S. Knoll, and Hsiao-Wuen Hon
Assigned to Microsoft
US Patent Application 20060143254
Published on June 29, 2006
Filed on December 24, 2004


A computer implemented information retrieval system is provided. The system includes a user input configured to receive a user query relative to the corpus. A machine learning classifier is trained with a first set of training data comprising anchor text relative to at least some of the documents in the corpus. A processing unit is adapted to interact with the classifier to obtain search results relative to the query using the machine learning classifier. In some aspects, the classifier is also trained with a second set of training data. A method of integrating a new document into a corpus of documents is also provided. A method of training a machine learning classifier for retrieving documents from a corpus using two distinct types of training data is also provided.


This next document looks at filtering search results based upon assigned categories for each of the results, comparisons of quality between them, and the use of expert domains for specific queries.

Filtering search results
Invented by Abdur R. Chowdhury and Gregory S. Pass
US Patent Application 20060143159
Published on June 29, 2006
Filed on December 29, 2004


Search results may be sorted or filtered based on scores assigned to the search results. For example, scores may be assigned to the search results based on characteristics of surrogate representations of the search results, which are relatively short summaries or excerpts of the search result that may be presented in place of the search results themselves, and those assigned scores may be used to sort or filter the search results. In one example of filtering, pairs of search results may be examined to identify significant drops in quality between the search results, which is indicated by a large relative or absolute difference in the scores of the search results. Search results with scores that indicate ranks that are lower than a lower ranked search result of the pair of search results may be eliminated when the difference between the scores assigned to the pair of search results exceeds a maximum allowable difference.


System and method for measuring image similarity based on semantic meaning
Invented by Aleksandra Mojsilovic, Bernice Rogowitz, and Jose Gomes
Assigned to IBM
US Patent Application 20060143176
Published on June 29, 2006
Filed on February 21, 2006


A method includes deriving a plurality of semantic categories for representing important semantic cues in images, where each semantic category is modeled through a combination of perceptual features that define the semantics of that category and that discriminate that category from other categories; for each semantic category, forming a set of the perceptual features comprising required features and frequently occurring features; comparing an image to said semantic categories; and classifying said image as belonging to one of said semantic categories if all of the required features and at least one of the frequently occurring features for that semantic category are present in said image. A database contains image information, where the image information includes at least one of already classified images, network locations of already classified images and documents containing already classified images. The database is searched for images matching an input query, comprising, e.g., an image, text, or both.

Become, Inc.

Method for assigning relative quality scores to a collection of linked documents
Invented by Rohit Kaul, Marcin Kadluczka, Yeogirl Yun, and Seong-Gon Kim
Assigned to Become, Inc.
US Patent Application 20060143197
Published on June 29, 2006
Filed on December 23, 2005


A method for assigning relative quality scores to a collection of linked documents is presented. The method includes constructing a spring network according to a connectivity graph of a linked database and determining the strength of inter-nodal springs based on the link structure of the network and the displacements on end-nodes. The method may further include computing the displacements of the nodes in a spring network through an iterative process and obtaining the quality scores for documents from the converged displacements of nodes. The method may also include obtaining the relative quality scores for groups of documents. The method may further include assigning topic-specific quality scores to documents in a linked database.

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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