New Search Patent Applications: May 23, 2006 – Yahoo Wallets, Microsoft Answers, and Google Phrases

A number of patent applications published last week proved intriguing. The US Patent and Trademark Office (USTPO) filings offered us additions to Google phrase searching and predictive queries, some enhancements to interacting with ecommerce sites that appear to be from Yahoo, a Microsoft Answers system and a page location based bidding process, a link-based ranking system from Oracle, and “phone gestures” from V-Enable.


Google Phrase searches could increase the size of the search engine’s data base, and an addition to their predictive query suggestions process adds non alphabetical language, and descriptions of filters and meta information associated with suggested queries.

Anna Patterson, who developed one of the largest search engines ever created while at the Internet Archives, and author of the ACM Queue article Why Writing Your Own Search Engine is Hard, is the inventor listed on this patent application, which describes a way for a search engine to index an extremely large number of pages. A related, earlier patent application from her is Phrase-based searching in an information retrieval system.

Documents stored in the primary index described are ranked by relevance and include relevance related information associated with them. Documents in the secondary index are ranked by document number, and don’t include relevance attributes. I wrote a little more about this patent application in a post at SEO by the Sea, entitled Google Aiming at 100 Billion Pages?

Multiple index based information retrieval system
Inventor: Anna L. Patterson
US Patent Application 20060106792
Published May 18, 2006
Filed on January 25, 2005


An information retrieval system uses phrases to index, retrieve, organize and describe documents. Phrases are identified that predict the presence of other phrases in documents. Documents are the indexed according to their included phrases. The document index is partitioned into multiple indexes, including a primary index and a secondary index. The primary index stores phrase posting lists with relevance rank ordered documents. The secondary index stores excess documents from the posting lists in document order.

In addition to describing how predictive query suggestions, like those seen in Google Suggest, and on the Google Toolbar for Firefox could be adapted to work with languages like Japanese, this next patent application details some other aspects of how query terms are selected, and mentions meta information associated with those queries, and a number of different types of possible filters. Don’t know if the filters described would be used in situations like one Barry mentioned recently: Belgian Company Suing Google Over Google Suggest Suggestions

Method and system for autocompletion for languages having ideographs and phonetic characters
Inventor: Kevin A. Gibbs
US Patent Application 20060106769
Published May 18, 2006
Filed on November 12, 2004


A set of ordered predicted completion strings including strings of ideographs are presented to a user as the user enters text in a text entry box (e.g., a browser or a toolbar). The user entered text may include zero or more ideographs followed by one or more phonetic characters, or the entered text may be one or more. The predicted completion strings can be in the form of URLs or query strings. The ordering may be based on any number of factors (e.g., a query’s frequency of submission from a community of users). URLs can be ranked based on an importance value of the URL. The sets of ordered predicted completion strings are obtained by matching a fingerprint value of the user’s entry string to a fingerprint to table map which contains the set of ordered predicted completion strings. The generation of the ordered prediction strings takes into account multiple phonetic representations of certain strings of ideographs.


There are three patent applications not in the USPTO assignment database, but which could be associated with Yahoo. One describes a way to automatically log in to different sites on the web. The other two discuss a “wallet” that may help visitors fill out checkout information on an ecommerce site.

While the published filings are not specifically assigned to Yahoo, a couple of the inventors listed on them have ties to the company. Thomas Joshua Shafron was one of the members of, which was purchased by Yahoo in 1999, and Qi Lu (who is listed on all three) is presently Yahoo’s Senior Vice President of Engineering for Search and Search Marketing.

Method and system of facilitating automatic login to a web site using an internet browser
Inventors: Qi Lu and Ashish Baldua
US Patent Application 20060107217
Published May 18, 2006
Filed December 30, 2005


A method and system of adding functionality to an Internet browser interface. In one embodiment of the present invention, the added functionality may facilitate automatic login to a web site using an Internet browser. In another embodiment, the added functionality may enable the user to perform various tasks using the Internet browser such as, by way of non-limiting example, performing various tasks required to navigate one or more web pages, or to retrieve information desired by the user from one or more web pages or web sites.

These next two patent applications describe a toolbar addon and active x controls that could act as a ecommerce wallet, helping someone using a browser by filling out checkout information from different ecommerce sites. There are some subtle differences from one to the other, but much overlap, including the same abstract.

Method and system of facilitating on-line shopping using a downloadable toolbar
Inventors: Thomas Joshua Shafron, Qi Lu, Ashish Baldua
US Patent Application 20060106680
Published May 18, 2006
Filed December 30, 2005

Method and system of facilitating on-line shopping using a control object and a predetermined site
Inventors: Thomas Joshua Shafron, Qi Lu, Ashish Baldua
US Patent Application 20060106681
Published May 18, 2006
Filed on December 30, 2005


A method of modifying an Internet browser interface to provide shopping assistant functionality facilitating on-line shopping at a supported merchant Internet site. A wallet created in accordance with the present invention comprises a database having various user data stored therein under certain predetermined field names. A supported merchant data file identifies a plurality of supported merchants and enables the modified browser interface to determine when a shopper has navigated to a supported merchant web site. For each supported merchant, a rules and mapping file is created that may be used in connection with the wallet to map user-provided information in the wallet to corresponding fields in the merchant’s check-out web page. When a user navigates to a supported merchant web site and desires to purchase merchandise and/or services from that merchant, the wallet automatically fills out the merchant’s check-out web page(s), thereby simplifying on-line shopping and particularly, the check-out process.


Microsoft published a patent application for a community based answering system, and another on a way of bidding on ads based upon their location on a page.

Computer-implemented system and method for providing authoritative answers to a general information search
Inventor: Brady D. Forrest
Assigned to Microsoft Corporation
US Patent Application 20060106788
Published May 18, 2006
Filed on March 29, 2005


A computer-implemented system and method provides authoritative answers, developed within a community-based question answering service to users of a general network information search. This community-based question answering service receives a question from a first user, and receives answers from community members regarding this question. The authority of the answer is then determined by members of the community and if the authority is of an acceptable level, the question together with its authoritative answer is added to a database which includes all authoritatively answered questions. The answering service has an interface that exposes the contents of this database to queries from users of the network who are not necessarily members of the answering service. In one embodiment, results from queries of the community-based database are integrated with queries of a second database of general network information. An improved general information search service is also provided that includes query results from the authoritative answers generated by the community-based answering service.

Systems and methods for determining relative placement of content items on a rendered page
Inventors: Kevin A. Meek, David E. Heckerman, David M. Chickering, Brian Burdick, Li Li, Murali Vajjiravel, Ying Li, Rajeev Prasad, Raxit Kagalwala, Tarek Najm, and Sachin Dhawan
Assigned to Microsoft Corporation
US Patent Application 20060106710
Published May 18, 2006
Filed on November 30, 2004


Systems and methods for determining the value of bids placed by content providers for placement positions on a page, e.g., a web page, rendered according to a given context, for instance, the search results listing for a particular query initiated on a search engine web site, are provided. Additionally, systems and methods are provided for determining placement of content items, e.g., advertisements and/or images, on a rendered page relative to other content items on the page based upon bid value.


Oracle describes a “linguistically aware link analysis where link values incorporate content-based relevance values of associated pages as a function of the page link structure.” By doing so, the odds that someone would follow one link over another upon a page would be different for each link, unlike some other link based ranking systems.

Linguistically aware link analysis method and system
Inventors: Shamim A. Alpha
Assigned to Oracle
US Patent Application 20060106784
Published May 18, 2006
Filed on December 22, 2005


Example, systems, methods, computer media, and other embodiments for determining relevance rankings for pages identified in a search query is provided. In one example, a computer program product can be configured to identify a candidate set of pages in response to a search query. A content-based relevance rank can be determined for at least one page of the candidate set of pages based on a content of the at least one page. The content-based relevance rank can be adjusted for one or more selected pages from the candidate set of pages by distributing a relevance rank from one or more pages that point to the one or more selected pages.


If you’ve used the Opera browser, you may be familiar with their mouse gestures, which can be used to navigate on, and to pages. Imagine something similar, but with gestures made with your wireless phone or PDA in hand. In this patent application, mobile Speech Search developer V-Enable describes a new method of navigation through the web using the motion of a wireless device.

Intelligent multimodal navigation techniques using motion of a mobile device sensed by a motion sensing device associated with the mobile device
Inventors: Sunil Kumar, Subramanya R. Uppala, Dipanshu Sharma, Chandra Kholia, and Fernando Corona
US Patent Application 20060107213
Published May 18, 2006
Filed on August 17, 2005


Motion is used as an input to a program running on a mobile device. The mobile device may require input also from alphanumeric or text input device. The motion can be used for items such as selection from a list, or navigation on the map. The motion can be sensed on image processing the output of the camera, or can be directly determine using an accelerometer. Existing programs can be explicitly modified, in which case the program accepts the motion directly. Alternatively, the modification can be implicit–where the motion is converted to a signal that the program can accept, without modification.

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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