Word from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today that Google was awarded a patent today that involves technology allowing the searcher to conduct a more comprehensive search by automatically determining equivalent ways (synonyms) to describe their information need.
The patent is titled: Methods and apparatus for determining equivalent descriptions for an information need, and was first filed with the USPTO in February 2003.
Methods and apparatus determine equivalent descriptions for an information need. In one implementation, if adjacent entries in a query log contain common terms, the uncommon terms are identified as a candidate pair. The candidate pairs are assigned a score based on their frequency of occurrence, and pairs having a score exceeding a defined threshold are determined to be synonyms.
More from the patent itself:
The World Wide Web (“web”) contains a vast amount of information. Locating a desired portion of the information, however, can be challenging. Unless the user is aware of the specific location of the desired information, the user must rely on a service to assist in locating the information. Typically, the user will identify the information sought via a query of some form, and the service will attempt to direct the user to the information based on the query. Unfortunately, however, the user cannot always formulate the query in a sufficient manner as to obtain all of the information that the user desires. For example, the user may have an information need that can be described in multiple ways, but the user may only be aware of a limited way of describing that information need. In such a case, the user may obtain only a subset of the desired information. It would be helpful, therefore, to have methods and apparatus for determining equivalent ways of describing an information need.
The document goes on to describe a method to determine synonyms based on search terms.