New Search Patents: May 3, 2006 – Microsoft and IBM Dominate with Recent Search Filings

With Google quiet, a recent flurry of activity burst out at the US Patent and Trademark Office from Microsoft and IBM, including the granting of a patent on a music search engine, another on searching recorded voice, and patents (and patent applications) on the ranking and presentation of results and on refinements of queries.

The strong showing from the two companies is joined by a Yahoo patent on pay-for-placement bidding, a Doubleclick patent on media ads, a patent application from Harris Corporation on reranking results based upon vocabulary words, patent applications from Yahoo and A9 adding functionality to handheld devices, Copernic trying to claim a process for real time indexing on desktops, and Telstra patenting a clustering and machine learning search system.


Yahoo was granted a patent on pay-for-placement bidding under the Overture name and also published a patent application on sharing data, such as driving directions, from a computer to a handheld device.

System and method for enabling multi-element bidding for influencing a position on a search result list generated by a computer network search engine
US Patent 7,035,812, assigned to Overture, invented by Ted Meisel, Peter Savich, Thomas A. Soulanille (Granted April 25, 2006, Filed on February 1, 2002)


In a system and method for enabling information providers to influence a position for a search listing within a search result list, a database stores accounts for the network information providers. Each account contains contact and billing information for a network information provider. In addition, 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 authenticated login. A bidding process occurs when the network information provider enters a new bid amount for a search listing. The system and method then compares the 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 to determine where the listing will appear on the search results list page.

Method for providing a clip for viewing at a remote device
US Patent Application 20060085731, assigned to Yahoo, invented by Yingqing L. Cui, Min Zhou, and Zhaowei Jiang (Published April 20, 2006, Filed on September 28, 2004)


A method and apparatus is directed to provide a clip of content to a remote device, such as a mobile device. The invention enables an end-user to determine content from a networked device, such as a personal computer. The determined content may include content from a webpage, graphic image, audio file, file, and the like. The determined content may be selected using a clip mechanism within a browser, or other application. The clip mechanism may provide a pop-up window, field entry, or the like, that enables entry of an identifier associated with the remote device. The clipped content may then be formatted based on a configuration of the remote device. The formatted clipped content may be transmitted to the remote device using a variety of messaging mechanisms, such as a SMS message, which includes a Universal Resource Locator (URL) to the clipped content.

A9 claimed a way to display images, such as destinations, to mobile devices in response to the location of those devices – useful when you are following directions and want to see your stopping point as you approach it.

System and method for displaying location-specific images on a mobile device
US Patent Application 20060089792, assigned to, Inc.invented by Udi Manber, Barnaby M. Dorfman, and Jonathan A. Gold (Published April 27, 2006, Filed on October 25, 2004)


A system is provided for providing location-specific images to a mobile device for display. The system generally comprises three components: a mobile device having a screen, a position identification system (e.g., a GPS receiver) that determines the position of the mobile device, and a database containing location-specific images taken at various locations. Each location-specific image is associated with geographic coordinates of the location at which the image was taken. Based on the position of the mobile device as determined by the position identification system, a location-specific image is selected from the database and displayed on the screen of the mobile device. For example, when a user is using the mobile device as a car navigation system, a location-specific image of the user’s destination location can be selected and displayed when the determined position of the mobile device comes within a certain distance from the geographic coordinates of the destination location.


IBM has a handful of new filings at the USTPO, including; a way to search recorded speech, a method to predict search result quality in response to different queries, an icon based user interface allowing searchers to choose amongst categories of search results, and an identification system to see previously visited pages in search results that may not have merited bookmarking earlier.

Method and system for searching recorded speech and retrieving relevant segments
US Patent 7,039,585, assigned to IBM, invented by Gerald Johann Wilmot and Robert Kern (Granted May 2, 2006, Filed on September 24, 2001)


A system and method for searching recorded speech is disclosed. The system and method comprises converting the recorded speech into text using a voice recognition system. As the speech is being converted, naturally occurring breaks in the languages will be used to take time indexes from the recording. The system and method includes creating a full text index of the recorded speech utilizing an information extender. The full text index contains a plurality of time stamps that point to the occurrence of words in the recorded speech. Finally, the text is searched by a full text search server that has linguistic search capabilities using the full text index. Finally, the searched text, the text index and the recorded speech are stored in the database. The recorded speech is searched by locating relevant phrases or words, and then mapping the time stamps associated with the relevant phrases words back to the recorded speech in the database.

Prediction of query difficulty for a generic search engine
US Patent Application 20060085399, assigned to IBM, invented by David Carmel, Lawrence Adam Darlow, Shai Fine, and Elad Yom-Tov (Published April 20, 2006, Filed on October 19, 2004)


A query difficulty prediction unit includes a query difficulty predictor to determine the extent of overlap between query documents received from a search engine operating on an input query and sub-query documents received from the search engine operating on sub-queries of the input query. The unit generates a query difficulty prediction from the extent of overlap.

Dynamic search criteria on a search graph
US Patent Application 20060085395, assigned to IBM, invented by Connie M. Cradick, Ryan Kirk Cradick, Zachary Adam Garbow, and Emuejevoke Jane-Frances Sanomi-Fleming (Published April 20, 2006, Filed on October 14, 2004)


A method, apparatus, system, and signal-bearing medium that, in an embodiment, display icons representing search terms on a search graph, having at least one axis. The axis represents a search criteria. The position of the icon specifies a value (such as an importance or weight) of the search criteria. A search engine uses the search terms, the search criteria, and the value to conduct the search. The results of the search are displayed in a results pane, and the search results are updated as the positions of the icons on the search graph change. The search criteria associated with the axes of the search graph may also change. In this way, the user interface for the search is made easier for the user to control.

Method and System to Identify a Previously Visited Universal Resource Located (URL) in Results from a Search
US Patent Application 20060085476, assigned to IBM, invented by Fonda J. Daniels, Timothy E. Figgins, and David B. Kumhyr (Published April 20, 2006, Filed on October 15, 2004)


A method to identify a previously visited URL in results from a search may include loading a URL personal databook collection object. The method may also include identifying any matches between results from the search and any URL object references in the URL personal databook collection object.


As I noted above, Microsoft has been keeping the patent office busy, with a number of new documents involving the web and search. One involves a quick way to change the scoring criteria used to rank sites, or classes of sites, for presentation in search results. Another allows for tracking and storing information about visits by a browser across different content sites.

Microsoft has also developed a music search engine based upon the characteristics of the compositions themselves instead of subjective descriptions of the songs and collaborative filtering (i.e., listeners who bought this album also purchased…). Another patent enables searching of data from partner sites via a main search interface. An improved method of providing thumbnails of web pages for users of handheld is the focus of another granted filing.

A different one looks to serving ads and other location based content, based not only upon the location of searchers, but also on the intended location of their searches. Query refinements are described in another, which uses metadata about documents initially returned on a search to try to interpret the intent of a query and provide relevant results.

The last Microsoft patent application listed involves a browser enhancement to aid in navigation through web pages, based upon predictions of where a visitor might want to go next. (I guess helping to answer the old Microsoft question, “Where do you want to go today?”)

System and method for providing search results with configurable scoring formula
US Patent 7,039,631, assigned to Microsoft, invented by James Charles Finger, II (Granted May 2, 2006, Filed on May 24, 2002)


A system and method for scoring documents in a search, wherein the scoring algorithm may be reconfigured dynamically. When a query is submitted, a score data structure is created for each document to be scored, which contains fields of information about how a given document compares to a query. A ranker object embodies a formula that derives a scalar score from the information contained in a score data structure. Scoring software is configured to apply the formula embodied in a ranker object to the values in the score data structure. Thus, the scoring formula can be dynamically changed without recompiling the scoring software by providing a new ranker object. Preferably, ranker objects are organized into rank sets, where each rank set contains a different ranker object for each class of document to be scored.

Tracking usage behavior in computer systems
US Patent 7,039,699, assigned to Microsoft, invented by Attila Narin, Keith A. Kegley, and David A. Sobeski (Granted May 2, 2006, Filed on May 2, 2000)


A system and process for tracking users’ usage of content in computer systems. The tracking and accumulation of content usage information allows content providers to understand more about their user base. In a computer system having numerous users, it is advantageous to provide relevant customized content in addition to any specifically requested content. By storing and processing content usage information for users in a computer system, customized content may be provided to a user based on the user’s previous usage of similar content. In operation, a computer system hosting various content creates a unique identifier, having data storage space, for a given user of the computer system. When a user sends a request for content to the computer system, a unique identifier is created and/or updated with information relevant to a user’s content request. The identifier is passed back to the user with the specifically desired content. When processing subsequent requests for content, the computer system updates the unique identifier with most recent usage information. In addition, the computer system processes the unique identifier for previous usage information in an effort to provide customized relevant content, in addition to the specifically desired content.

System and methods for providing adaptive media property classification
US Patent 7,035,873, assigned to Microsoft, invented by Christopher B. Weare (Granted April 25, 2006, Filed on August 20, 2001)


A system and methods are provided for automatically classifying data according to perceptual properties of the data to form a classification chain that is suited to the searching and sorting of large databases of media entities. During classification, experts assign each media entity in the training data set to one or more classes, with each class corresponding to a given subset of perceptual properties of the data. In conjunction with digital signal processing properties of the data corresponding to the perceptual properties, the classified data is then used to construct an initial classification chain. During operation, when presented with an unclassified entry, the classification chain returns an estimate of the class of the entry, as well as a confidence measure that is proportional to the level of confidence of the class assignment. Over time, as the classification chain evolves, the classification chain becomes more and more effective for quickly characterizing media entities.

Generic proxy for representing search engine partner
US Patent 7,035,845, assigned to Microsoft, invented by Steven Yao, Eric Watson, Saurab Nog, and David Snelling (Granted April 25, 2006, Filed on May 15, 2002)


A search engine receives a search query from a user and forwards the received query to a partner by way of a call to a generic proxy with the query for the partner. The generic proxy receives and processes the query, forwards the processed query to the partner, receives search results responsive to the forwarded query from the partner, and processes the received search results, all according to the configuration information corresponding to the partner. The generic proxy then forwards the processed search results to the search engine for further forwarding to the querying user. Accordingly, each of several partners has corresponding configuration information unique thereto and only the generic proxy need be developed for all of the several partners.

Semantic thumbnails
US Patent Application 20060085743, assigned to Microsoft, invented by Patrick Markus Baudisch and Heidi Lap Mun Lam (Published April 20, 2006, Filed on October 18, 2004)


A method is provided for displaying a page formed of discrete elements, such as a Web page, on different computing devices. The method converts the page into a semantic thumbnail, which preserves the overall appearance of the page and displays readable text segments that enable a user to identify main areas of the page. The semantic thumbnail is adaptable to different screen sizes and target font sizes. The method enlarges unreadable text segments in a miniature version of the page. The method also trims the enlarged text segments to fit the width of the semantic thumbnail by summarizing or cropping text in the enlarged text segments.

System and method for automatic generation of search results based on local intention
US Patent Application 20060085392, assigned to Microsoft, invented by Lee Wang and Ying Li (Published April 20, 2006, Filed on September 30, 2004)


A system and related techniques automatically analyze Web search and other activity, to generate locality-selected results based on not just the user’s location, but also the business or other content provider’s location and the degree of local intent in the user’s query. The locality or region to the user may be identified, for instance, by the presence of geographic clues or indicators in the general content of the Web site, for instance, the presence of ZIP codes, telephone numbers, town names or other semantic or other indicators which have some geographic connotation in search terms, key words or other query or semantic inputs. The user’s degree of local intent may be automatically analyzed as well, for instance by the presence of terms such as “car repair” or “pizza restaurant” which may suggest the user intends to locate local goods, services or providers. The search service may then access a content database to identify ads or other media or content which match or correspond to the detected locality or region, such as ads for local restaurants, car dealerships, physicians or other services or products, and which correspond in location, working radius and degree of localness to the user’s query. Because the delivery of localized search results according to the invention is specifically filtered for user-driven local intent, advertisements and other media or content may be delivered which better match the user’s search objectives.

Automatic query suggestions
US Patent Application 20060085391, assigned to Microsoft, invented by Andrzej Turski, Lili Cheng, and Matthew B. MacLaurin (Published April 20, 2006, Filed on September 24, 2004)


An improved technique of querying a data store by widening the query using a series of queries that follow relations between items. Initial auxiliary queries are used to find metadata property values (rather than the actual items) that are then used in the subsequent queries. The initial queries employ one or more property values to find a related item. In response thereto, an action menu is presented for the item that facilitates widening the search for all other items with the same selected property value. The user can be presented with several choices depending on which property is used for query widening.

Browsing web content using predictive navigation links
US Patent Application 20060085766, assigned to Microsoft, invented by Ewa Dominowska and Robert J. Ragno (Published April 20, 2006, Filed on October 15, 2004)


A predictive travel log system using one or more ranking schemes to predict the location that a user would seek to navigate to through back and forward navigation in a web browser is provided. The navigation functionality can be exposed through traditional back and forward buttons with drop down travel log menus found in a browser user interface.


Doubleclick was awarded a patent on predicting, displaying, monitoring, and receiving feedback on direct advertisements, preferably banner ads on media sites.

Method and apparatus for automatic placement of advertising
US Patent 7,039,599, Assigned to Doubleclick Inc., invented by Dwight A. Merriman and Kevin O’Connor (Granted May 2, 2006, Filed on June 15, 1998)


A computer system for automatic replacement of direct advertisements in scarce media includes an advertising server for selecting a direct advertisement based on certain criteria. Transaction results of the direct advertisement placement are reported back to the advertising server, and an associated accounting system. In one embodiment, the direct advertiser’s server reports transactions back to the advertising server by email. In a second embodiment, a direct proxy server brokers the user’s session (or interaction) with the direct advertiser’s server, including transaction processing and the direct proxy server reports the results of transactions back to the advertising server and its associated accounting system. A direct proxy provides an independent audit of transactions at a remote direct advertiser’s web site. The feedback of the results of direct advertisement transactions provides an efficient utilization of direct advertising space by way of an automated computer system with a predictive model for selection and distribution of direct advertising.

Harris Corporation

Harris Corporation has patented a method of reranking search results by the occurence of relevant vocabulary words within the documents returned. Those relevant terms could be decided upon the the searcher or the computing system used.

Method for re-ranking documents retrieved from a document database
US Patent Application 20060089926, assigned to Harris Corporation, invented by Margaret M. Knepper, Kevin Lee Fox, and Ophir Frieder (Published April 27, 2006, Filed on October 27, 2004)


A computer-implemented method for processing documents in a document database includes generating an initial ranking of retrieved documents using an information retrieval system and based upon a user search query, and processing vocabulary words based upon occurrences thereof in at least some of the retrieved documents. Respective relevancies of the vocabulary words based on the occurrences thereof and the user search query are generated. A re-ranking of the retrieved documents is generated based on the relevancies of the vocabulary words.

Copernic Technologies

Copernic Technologies has claimed a method of desktop search which works with an operating system to identify which documents and which parts of a local index need to be updated, rather than reindexing all documents on a system.

Indexing systems and methods
US Patent Application 20060085490, assigned to Copernic Technologies, Inc., invented by Mathieu Baron, Daniel Lavoie, and Nicholas Pelletier (Published April 20, 2006, Filed on August 19, 2005)


Described herein are systems and methods for indexing documents in a quasi real-time manner. The method can include the steps of indexing documents and storing document information in a database, registering with an operating system for notification of changes to the documents, and responding to received notification of changes by updating the database to reflect the addition, modification, renaming and/or deletion of documents. Unlike traditional document systems, the document index described herein can be updated without rescanning all the indexed documents.

Telstra Corporation Limited

A patent was granted to a couple of employees of Telstra Corporation Limited, in Australia, which has a similar name and shares inventors and a filing date with an Australian patent filing assigned to the company. It describes a process of filtering and categorizing documents and the use of a support vector machine learning approach, for large quantities of text messages, emails, and web pages.

While there is no official assignment noted in the USPTO database, there is a patent application assigned to Telstra, filed on the same date as the application in the US, with the same inventors under the name “A document categorisation system” (Australian Application Number 2001291494)

Document categorisation system
US Patent Application 20060089924, invented by Bhavani Raskutti and Adam Kowalczyk (Published on April 27, 2006, Filed on September 25, 2001)


A document categorisation system, including a clusterer for generating clusters of related electronic documents based on features extracted from said documents, and a filter module for generating a filter on the basis of said clusters to categorise further documents received by said system. The system may include an editor for manually browsing and modifying the clusters. The categorisation of the documents is based on n-grams, which are used to determine significant features of the documents. The system includes a trend analyzer for determining trends of changing document categories over time, and for identifying novel clusters. The system may be implemented as a plug-in module for a spreadsheet application, providing a convenient means for one-off or ongoing analysis of text entries in a worksheet.

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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