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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