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Overture Sues Google Over Pay-for-Placement Patent 256

Posted by michael
from the minor-chord dept.
Ana anonymous submitter wrote: "C|Net News is reporting that Overture is suing Google over its AdWords advertising method since it may be infringing upon Patent 6,269,361 'System and method for influencing a position on a search result list generated by a computer network search engine'."
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Overture Sues Google Over Pay-for-Placement Patent

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  • they have been patented before, and they seem to still be. but can you patent a way of achieving a goal? Should you be able to, and are there exceptions?
  • Heh (Score:5, Funny)

    by Auckerman (223266) on Friday April 05, 2002 @08:51PM (#3294069)
    "Basically we've analyzed the patent and determined that we do not infringe on any valid claim that it contains,"

    Translation: Your patent sucks ass and we have the money to prove it.
  • This seems remniscent of amazon's patent on 1 click purchasing. If anything, it goes to show that what we think is a common sense idea is "innovative" according to business folk. I'm sure google could work their way around it by either calling it something else or developing a new and better alternative method.
  • The elements of a valid patent are that the invention be new, useful and non-obvious. This one sounds obvious to me - order them based upon how much they paid you? C'mon, this is pathetic.
    • by dnoyeb (547705)
      The patent office is obviously on the payroll of Lawyers. If they had their shit in order, lawyers would be outta business in this respect.
  • if google did actually infringe that patent, shit on them... if they didnt, then overture is just doing this for publicity :P (and shit on them)....
    *pokes google.com with a twig*
  • If I take a patent out for a "large spherical 'star-island' inhabited with wondrous bacterial-like organisms on top of it's surface" would I then be within my right to own Earth?

    Just think of all the Environmentalists I could sue!

  • by devphil (51341) on Friday April 05, 2002 @08:54PM (#3294090) Homepage
    "System and method for influencing a position on a search result list generated by a computer network search engine."

    How is "give us money and we'll rank you higher" an original contribution to art and science? It reminds me of the feminist character at the frat party at the end of PCU, with the dawning realization, "You mean, if you're nice to [males], they bring you stuff?"

    It's days like this, where I'm almost ready to write my Senator and try and take an active role, that I look at the decisions being made and say to myself, fuck it, we're too late.

    • (* How is "give us money and we'll rank you higher" an original contribution to art and science? *)

      Soooooooo stupid.

      I would love to see a written justification by the granter of the patent. What the living f_____ was going thru his/her stoned little head?

      If you patent delivering pizza by ion rocket, they will probably grant it because ion rockets sound like gee-wiz stuff. You are neither inventing pizzas, delivery, *nor* ion rockets. But the combo somehow delights the patent office jerk.

      A PHB-like buzzword trigger-bot working over there?
    • It's days like this, where I'm almost ready to write my Senator and try and take an active role, that I look at the decisions being made and say to myself, fuck it, we're too late.

      Actually, you're not too late... it's never too late to get law changed. Senators and congressmen do not need "prior art" to prove "pay me for top priotity" is not patentable because they've been doing that for decades!! That's way before the internet became common.

      So there ya go.
  • by voisine (153062) on Friday April 05, 2002 @08:54PM (#3294092)
    I believe what they have patented is more of a business
    model. Their proprietary algorithms are more in the
    arena of fraud detection, people clicking on the same
    $4 gambling link 100 times. These are kept as trade
    secrets instead of being patented.
    • Overture's patent infringement suit comes amid widespread criticism of so-called business method patents--a relatively new class of invention recognized by the U.S. Patent Office and the courts that has led to a flood of filings laying claim to nuts and bolts Internet activities.

      Unfortunatly the patent office doesn't seem to care and are accepting patents of what they know are business models.
    • Why would clicking the same gambling link 100 times be considered "fraud"? And what is algorithmically non-trivial about detecting that?
    • Overture's methods are designed to prevent attacks on their advertisers by people who do multiple hits from one site, for instance hitting a competitor N thousand times, or looking up spamming services on Overture. (They don't say their methods, but there are a variety of obvious ways to stop simple attacks.) But that doesn't stop a Slashdotting attack, where thousands of separate people all go follow a given link for which the advertiser has to pay per hit - they're "genuine" unique hits, even if they're "astroturf" rather than "grass-roots".

      There was an article about Overture, I think on Slashdot, that had an interesting attack on spammers who use Overture's advertising. Go to their site overture.com [overture.com] and search for "bulk email" [overture.com] or some similar phrase like "opt-in email", and it'll give you a list of sites that are bidding some amount of money per web hit. The top three bidders for any given set of words also get advertised on several other search engines. Some spammers used to bid as much as $5 for hits, though the maximum today was down to like $2.75.

      In the long run, attacks like this probably mainly result in loss of business for Overture :-), but meanwhile it's fun to have a simple method to beat up on some spammers.

  • ok, i looked (Score:3, Interesting)

    by doooras (543177) on Friday April 05, 2002 @08:54PM (#3294093)
    this is probably just another play for recognition. i had never heard of Overture before this, so i clicked the link to see what they were. woo.. another alta-yahoo-whatever. they're probably hoping to get the traffic, and maybe get some of google's loot if they're lucky.
  • On a side note... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Loki_1929 (550940) on Friday April 05, 2002 @08:54PM (#3294094) Journal
    Although I submitted a story (since rejected) about this, I'm looking for more info. Apparently, Comcast.net customers who try searching Google [google.com] get the following message...

    403 Forbidden
    Your client does not have permission to get URL /search?hl=en&q=slashdot from this server. (Client IP address: *snip*)

    Unfortunately, Google has received a significant amount of abuse from your network. Because some person or people on your network have violated our Terms of Service (http://www.google.com/terms_of_service.html) and sent us numerous automated search queries, we have been forced to shut off access to Google's services from your network.

    Note that we are not accusing you personally of having violated our Terms of Service; you are most likely an innocent victim of someone else's bad behavior. We're really sorry to have had to take this action.

    We very much want to be able to work this problem out with your sysadmin or your ISP's network and/or abuse department. Unfortunately, so far, we have not been able to do so. Please contact your sysadmin or your ISP's network and/or abuse department and request that they track down who is causing this problem with Google. Please don't complain to Google about this problem (since there's nothing we can do until the problem on your network has been identified and stopped). Instead, please complain to your sysadmin or your ISP's network and/or abuse department. Letting them know that they need to take immediate action so that you can enjoy full access to the Internet (including Google) is the quickest way for you to regain your Google service.

    We wholeheartedly apologize for the inconvenience to you, and with your help, we expect that we'll soon be able provide search results to you once more.

    This has been confirmed by myself and 3 friends on Comcast.net. Anyone have more information? Please share with the class.

    • The beautiful apart about that message is that they direct you to the terms of service, but are blocking your network traffic.

      I'm hoping they just turned off your netblock for searching, and not for all of Google. If so, I think I would lose some respect for Google just based on the stupid-factor.

      If it isn't too much trouble could you clarify or research that point? Thanks
      • Oddly enough, the only service I seem to be blocked from is the web search. Every other google page appears to work fine, and I can browse/search groups and catalogs etc. All I've found so far is that I can't search with the main search or the advanced search (which really just uses the main search but does all the syntax for you.)

        As of this writing, I'm still blocked.

    • *standing up and cheering!!!*

      Good for Google. It's about time someone stood up and forced ComCast to get their stupid network under control. My servers still get pounded by Win boxes that are infected with Nimda and such. Broadband is a dangerous thing when given to the masses who have no clue how to secure themselves.
    • by Silverhammer (13644) on Friday April 05, 2002 @11:02PM (#3294475)
      Anyone have more information? Please share with the class.

      Webposition Gold [webposition.com] is a fucking evil little piece of software used by marketing and advertising consultants to measure how Web sites are ranked on various search engines. It bombards the engines with automated queries in order to try to deduce -- and therefore defeat -- their ranking algoritithms.

      Google hates that.

      Someone on your block was probably using Webposition Gold, so your block got locked out.

    • Well, I'm on Comcast in Metro Detroit and all is well - I just tried searching.
    • I don't know if this is the reason you've been blocked out of Google search, but this is a possibility:

      Some email harvesting programs use Google and other search engines to search for email addresses. If you enter "house" as the search term, the program will open several network connections to Google to retrieve all the pages that have the search term "house" somewhere on them. There are some 46 million of them at the moment according to Google. Now that the harvesting program has the URLs, it'll get those pages from the web and search for email addresses from the page they just retrieved. Voilà, you have a database of email addresses that have something to do with "house" and you can spam them to hell with mortgage offers. Isn't that beautiful? Some harvesting programs can do the same for Usenet news -- with the help of groups.google.com [google.com]. It's surprising that your netblock hasn't been blocked out of that (yet).

      The point is that getting those millions of hits out of Google will place quite a load on Google search. If I were a Google admin, I'd surely block the network that's causing that kind of problems, especially if the purpose of the exhaustive search is to search for email addresses.
    • Re:On a side note... (Score:5, Informative)

      by leviramsey (248057) on Saturday April 06, 2002 @01:12AM (#3294734) Journal

      This may be a residual effect of people protesting the Xenu.net flap of a month ago.

      Basically, Don Marti proposed that people run this shell script:

      while : ; do
      wget -o /dev/null -O /dev/null \
      http://google.com/search?query=where+the+fuck+is+x enu+dot+net+you+chickenshit+stanford+assholes;
      do ne

      Google essentially took this to be a DoS attack against their search (which, to a large extent, it is, imho). They started banning IP's which were running this script. When lots of users from Comcast netblocks began running the script, they may have decided to block those netblocks.

      Does Comcast happen to use PPPoE? If so, then I would say that Google's actions are warranted, imho.

      • One fringe benefit of making the query in that script: three out of four ads shown are for .Net training, thus making life a little more expensive for our friends pushing .Net.

        I think that if you ran that script with a sleep thrown in for good measure, Google wouldn't have the problem.

  • The abstract... (Score:2, Informative)

    by crt (44106)
    ...of the patent would appear to cover what Google is doing. Now whether you agree with the granting of the patent or not is another issue...

    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 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 logging into his or her account via an authentication process. The network information provider influences a position for a search listing in the provider's account by first selecting a search term relevant to the content of the web site or other information source to be listed. The network information provider enters the search term and the description into a search listing. 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 and method of the present invention 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.

  • by Cutriss (262920) on Friday April 05, 2002 @08:55PM (#3294100) Homepage
    'System and method for influencing a position on a search result list generated by a computer network search engine'.

    Specifically, the patent covers a bidding process in which link owners compete in a bidding process to show which bids are highest. Though, in this case, Google is only using this data for the ads on the right sidebar of searches. GoTo.com used the bidding process to insert paid links within its regular search results. The free links would appear afterward.

    The application of the technique is where this differs, but this is yet another case of an overly broad patent.
    • I agree...I was all prepared to post a Hunter S. Thompson-influenced (I've been reading his letters recently; high fun) about witless greedsuckers and waterheads in the US PTO, but...well, yes, it looks like they've got a good argument about infringement...but who the hell would let a goddamn thing like this get patented in the first place?

      I swear to God I'm going to patent an algorithm for determing the total amount of monies held by totalling separate counts of differing values of paper and metal currency and then sue every goddamn bank on the planet for a grillion dollars. Thing is, these fuckers will have patented it first.

  • by Guitarzan (57028)
    Just do a quick google search to find out more info on this story...
  • Can I get a patent for a method and system for taking out vague, simplistic patents for the sole purpose of extortion?
  • Overture == Goto.com (Score:4, Informative)

    by kindbud (90044) on Friday April 05, 2002 @08:56PM (#3294105) Homepage
    Just in case anyone forgot, see Subject. C|Net seems unaware, and refers to Overture as if they had always existed. But it's still the same Idealab-spawned dot-com-bubble outfit that sued Disney's Go.com for trademark infringment and won.

    And they STILL haven't turned a profit.
    • With a website called GOTO they have to be messed up. No wonder they got a patent.

      Patent Clerk:"Yes! Here is your patent. Just stop making me read uncommented GOTO code! Arghh ...
  • Looking at Overture.com's about page, I see the following:
    "The company was created in 1997 in response to three fundamental problems it perceived with Internet search, including poor quality results, random ordering of listings and a weak advertising revenue model"

    1997? Someone HAD to be doing this before 1997.

    Also.... "System and method for influencing a position on a search result list generated by a computer network search engine." seems pretty vague. Anything searchable and sortable on a network is subject to this, whether it be by clicking a button that says Date to sort by date or sorting by relevance or whatever.
    The basis of a search engine is to sort matching hits by order of relevance.... I don't see how this is patentable (then again, as our patent office has proven, ANYTHING can be patented, no matter how dumb or no matter how many million people have done it before).

    -kwishot
    • Re:This is dumb... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Zeinfeld (263942)
      1997? Someone HAD to be doing this before 1997.

      DEC brought up Alta Vista in 1995 and went public by at least 1996.

      They started selling keywords fairly early on as well, which is a mechanism to affect the rank of the results. The only major difference between Alta-Vista's scheme and Google is that Google does it publicly.

      The patent was filled in 1999 so prior art from 1998 invalidates it.

      • DEC did not buy up AltaVista - they wrote it themselves. Sheesh, is history that recent vanishing into the dust of the collective memory already?
        • DEC did not buy up AltaVista - they wrote it themselves. Sheesh, is history that recent vanishing into the dust of the collective memory already?

          As I knew quite well because I was sharing an office with Jim Gettys at the time. That is why I said brought up.

          Of course given the hash DEC made of Alta Vista business wise they would have been better off well doing almost anything other than they did.

  • Somebody has patented marketing / placement of ads on the internet?

    I must go bash my head now.

    make the bad man go away.

  • Just because a computer is involved in a business practice means it's patentable? A thousand bucks can get you a 20 year monopoly? That sucks man!

    • I've said it before the keys to new patents is to take an exisiting technology and combine it with a network (another existing technology), or give it a HTML (XML is the rage now) interface (yet another existing technology), or give it a database backend (what do you know, an existing technology). Bonus points if you can use 2 or even all three.

      So thanks to your patent I can now say...

      A robot powered BurgerWorld with network interconnectivity between the robots, a web interface to place orders that is generated from a database that has all the different food that the robots know how to make.

      I think I'm going to patent a process to go through the patent database (which hopefully I can access by a network with a web interface) to take all existing patents and resubmit them with my patented patent making system.
  • by gadfium (318941) on Friday April 05, 2002 @08:59PM (#3294122)
    If their results are based on how much the site pays, then under what circumstances would they produce more accurate hits than almost any other algorithm for ranking sites?

    If no one uses them for searches, then why would web sites pay them money for listing?

    I can't see how their business model would work, except if they can make money by suing others.

    Ah, now I see how their business model works.

    • Overture makes its money because marketers for companies feel it's very important to be listed high in the search engines (every single one of them). My company has a couple like this and they're even able to convince our clients to pay us more money to "optimize" their sites for the search engines. I don't really get it though; they should really just use their resources to produce good sites with content instead of wasting them on trying to beat the search engines.
    • Overture is useful when you're looking to buy something. The top search results on Overture will almost without fail be companies selling what you're searching for. Google searches often don't have any associated ads, and when they do, they always lack depth in comparison to Overture's paid listings. I suspect this is because until recently Google didn't have a pay-per-click pricing model.

      When you're not looking for someone to sell you something there's absolutely no reason to use Overture. Even Teoma will give you better results. :-)

  • by frankie (91710) on Friday April 05, 2002 @09:00PM (#3294123) Journal
    For the 99% of you who didn't read the references:

    Overture isn't suing about Google's page rank results, nor do they claim that the ad results are part of the main search. They're saying that the adwords results in and of themselves constitute a pay-for-play search that infringes the patent.

    Personally, I think it sounds like a desperation play of a dying company.
  • Wait, this is a patent over search result placement. Of course, this is a dumb patent, but... it doesn't apply to Google. The AdWords don't influence search result placement, but rather an extra little bar saying "this might be relevant" on the top.

    Demo: search for tennis rackets [google.com]. The DealTime.com link is the AdWord, which is nothing like a search result.

    How can they do this? And why not go over some search engine that does sell placement, rather than Google?

  • Some bad (i.e., obvious/software/business method) patents are on annoying inventions. That's a real dilemma. On the one hand, I don't like to see the USPTO grant bad patents. On the other hand, if patents on spam techniques, search result reordering, and other annoying marketing and business practices get enforced vigorously and hence get used less, our lives get easier. Can someone please patent animated GIFs and the BLINK tag?
  • What about them... do the methods have to be different, or the same? At what level of difference is there? Obviously a "system" and "method" could mean totally different things. Besides, a method of promoting, or demoting a search result seem to be like an integrial part of any good query system. I mean its all part of data-mining, right? And, what exactly is the definition of computer network? machines connected via the "internet" of computer networked in some other way?
  • "We've recently become aware that (Google is) infringing on our patent, and it's our policy to protect our intellectual property," said Overture spokesman Al Duncan.

    Google in February said it would begin auctioning ad-sponsored links on its search-results pages

    And they just realized now?!? Personally I think the fact that they waited over a month while letting Google use and integrate this "patented" idea and then without warning suddenly dropping this lawsuit on them shows a deliberate vendetta against Google and this suit should be thrown out on that basis alone.
  • According to the article, Overture should be suing every search engine that uses targeted ads, but they chose only Google. Perhaps they're envious of Google's reputation (I hadn't even heard of Overture until now).
  • It sounds like from the abstract that they're talking about some sort of weighting system - the more you pay, the higher you go.

    The system and method of the present invention 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

    As far as I can tell from watching the Google searches, you search for a term which happens to trigger a paying customers advert, it just appears at the top of the list. No sliding scale of where it appears in relation to other results. It's more of a keyword triggered ad than anything else.

  • by schwep (173358) on Friday April 05, 2002 @09:04PM (#3294137)
    Yet another prime example of why patents shouldn't apply to software.

    The entire software industry should kneel down and kiss the feet of IBM, Xerox, and other early software pioneers for not patenting every software related concept... the linked list, the hash table, binary sorts, bubble sorts, grouping data, grouping data and methods, batch processing... because if they had done so, computers would still be in large room in the basements of our universities & large corporations, with little application in our lives.

    Just try and think of something that hasn't been affected by computers.

    It is sickening to look at many software companies today... always looking for the path of least resistance, and never willing to claim responsibility for thier actions.
    • The entire software industry should kneel down and kiss the feet of IBM, Xerox, and other early software pioneers for not patenting every software related concept... the linked list, the hash table, binary sorts, bubble sorts, grouping data, grouping data and methods, batch processing...

      Considering current USPTO policies, it may not be too late to patent these ideas. These innovations are still major opportunities for enterprising developers to generate licensing revenue and help stimulate our economy. I call first dibs on hashtables.

    • This IBM you mention, this is the same IBM that got 3500 patents in 2001, bringing their total to over 34,000? That IBM?
  • by jigokukoinu (549392) on Friday April 05, 2002 @09:06PM (#3294141) Journal
    It sounds like someone patented the "corruption of the results of one's own search engine."

    What the hell kind of patent is that?

    :)
  • According to the Patent Abstract [uspto.gov]:
    The network information provider influences the position for a search listing through a continuous online competitive bidding process. ... The system and method of the present invention 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.
    Just from the abstract, I don't think the patent would apply to Google, since ads don't affect the ranking of the search results. They definately wouldn't apply to Google's AdsWords [google.com] program, since ranking of the AdWords (the text boxes to the right of the page) are determined by how often the ads are clicked, and the ranking affects the cost of ads, not the other way around.

    The patent might, at a stretch, cover Google's AdWords Select [google.com] program, since that allows you to pay for a rank amongst other ads. However, it this still doesn't affect the search results, only ads that are clearly ads, so it doesn't sound like the patent would cover this either.

    I can't say anything about their Premium Sponsorship [google.com] program (the one that puts text ads at the top of the page, rather than to the right) since their website doesn't say anything about ranking of those types of ads.

  • by frankie (91710) on Friday April 05, 2002 @09:17PM (#3294186) Journal
    Overture's patent infringement suit comes amid widespread criticism of so-called business method patents--a relatively new class of invention recognized by the U.S. Patent Office and the courts that has led to a flood of filings laying claim to nuts and bolts Internet activities.

    This paragraph of the article is phrased badly. The concept of patenting a business method is not new. What's new is that USPTO and the courts are allowing these stupid things to stand.

    The Supreme Court wrote a fabulous ruling [findlaw.com] about bad patents way back in 1950. I urge everyone to read the full ruling and see how utterly it applies to modern events. Here's a couple favorite quotes:

    • "The mere combination of a number of old parts or elements which, in combination, perform or produce no new or different function or operation than that theretofore performed or produced by them, is not patentable invention."
    • "The function of a patent is to add to the sum of useful knowledge. Patents cannot be sustained when, on the contrary, their effect is to subtract from former resources freely available to skilled artisans."
    • "The Patent Office, like most administrative agencies, has looked with favor on the opportunity which the exercise of discretion affords to expand its own jurisdiction. And so it has placed a host of gadgets under the armour of patents - gadgets that obviously have had no place in the constitutional scheme of advancing scientific knowledge."

    Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose

    • by Vicegrip (82853) on Friday April 05, 2002 @10:04PM (#3294320) Journal
      Every patent is the grant of a privilege of exacting tolls from the public. The Framers plainly did not want those monopolies freely granted. The invention, to justify a patent, had to serve the ends of science - to push back the frontiers of chemistry, physics, and the like; to make a distinctive contribution to scientific knowledge. That is why through the years the opinions of the Court commonly have taken "inventive genius" as the test. * It [340 U.S. 147, 155] is not enough that an article is new and useful. The Constitution never sanctioned the patenting of gadgets. Patents serve a higher end - the advancement of science. An invention need not be as startling as an atomic bomb to be patentable. But it has to be of such quality and distinction that masters of the scientific field in which it falls will recognize it as an advance.

      One is left to sadly wonder why things have fallen so low.
  • Contact Overture (Score:3, Informative)

    by pclinger (114364) on Friday April 05, 2002 @09:17PM (#3294187) Homepage Journal
    Send you letters to Overture expressing your outrage over this. I've fired them off a nasty-gram. You can contact them by emailing:

    feedback@overture.com
  • I wasn't aware that Patent Applications were available online before they are granted! Go here [uspto.gov], click on "quick search" for patent applications, put your favorite company in the Search field and search on "assignee name" field to see what they're up to!
  • If only someone had gotten a patent on pop-up ads...
  • prior art (Score:5, Interesting)

    by chompz (180011) on Friday April 05, 2002 @09:33PM (#3294231)
    I think I've seen prior art to this, how about the phone book.

    Think about it, the "YELLOW" pages are pay for placement, while in the "WHITE" pages most listings are free, excepting businesses who pay extra high rates on thier local phone bill to have bold and two lines instead of one.

    Hello! Does the addition of the word internet make this entirely different or something?

    Internet adaptations of widely used ideas in print should not be pattented. The search engine just serves to filter the irrelevant from the relevant, something done in the yellow pages by "CATEGORIZATION", its just the with a search engine, the categorization is much more general and can be both a benifit and a detriment to the quality of the searching experience.

    My 2cents, but I think I have a point here.


    • The Yellow Pages are ordered alphabetically. No matter how much ZZZ Pizza pays the Yellow Pages, they will still be listed far after AAAA Comedy Driving School. Overture's patent is a "System and method for influencing a position on a search result list generated by a computer network search engine".

      • No matter how much ZZZ Pizza pays the Yellow Pages, they will still be listed far after AAAA Comedy Driving School.

        (We won't mention that Driving Schools would very definately be listed prior to Pizza places, instead we'll assume you meant something like ZZZippy Ron's Driving School).

        In the yellow pages you're right and your wrong.

        In a category such as "Driving Schools", there are two independent pieces - the listings and the display ads. The Listings are usually in alphabetical order, sometimes by city. (Although I suspect some telephone directory publisher has at some point offered a premium "top of category" listing - but ignore that for a minute). Now the display ads in most directories are in order from largest to smallest. If you're the biggest ad in the section, you get first running in the section, or sometimes the choice of where you run. If you're the next biggest, you get second choice, etc.

        Take a look at the display ads and note that they are most definately not in alphabetical order. Occasionally, you'll find a publisher will try to keep a smaller ad on the same page as the listing - but quite often not.

        I think the key here is that there are definately pay per placement "prior arts". There are also definately prior arts related to almost anything computer related. The question here is whether the combination of using the "pay per placement" prior art with the "buy a keyword" prior art is both unique enought to be a valid patent, and also whether google's implentation differs enough from the overture prior art to require google to pay royalties to overture.

    • Hello! Does the addition of the word internet make this entirely different or something?

      Yes. Not just the word internet, but the words computer and database. Adding these words to existing things has been the primary means of "innovation" over the last couple of years.

  • by mshurpik (198339) on Friday April 05, 2002 @09:49PM (#3294289)
    Wow. This is my first time looking at a patent, and you know what? It reminds me very much of every kind of half-assed spec my client handed me when I was a web programmer.

    Read on for analysis:

    The system and method of the present invention provides a database

    Provides a database? How about "uses," "engages," "is dependent upon"? This usage of "provides" is so far out in left-field that it's almost backwards. And yet, I see this exact mistake a lot.

    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.

    As always, input fields are detailed to a laughably meticulous degree. Not to mention, the usage of "comprising" is backwards. One or more keywords comprise a search term. A search term is composed of one or more keywords.

    The network information provider enters the search term and the description into a search listing.

    And the physical process of using the application is folded into the spec itself like it's some sort of revelation. "First, the user fires up the application." Woah, crucial info!

    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.

    Meanwhile, the actual guts of the algorithm are never defined, instead replaced with tangential buzzwords like "client computer" and useless information about network topology.

    This is the current state-of-the-art in spec, boys. This is why your programming job is hell.

    • by BonThomme (239873) on Friday April 05, 2002 @10:17PM (#3294361) Homepage
      Writing a spec and writing a patent have little in common. In addition, patents are usually drafted by lawyers. The patent is intentionally vague and broad. Breadth is where a patent gets its strength. It's not in the drafter's interest to have a precisely-defined patent as that would impair the patent's coverage.

      A lawyer would get fired for using the word "composed of" in an application. In patent-speak, "composed of" means "composed exactly of". That is, all I would have to do is add Froot Loops to my search term and poof, no infringement. "Comprising" means the thing has at least those components, and possibly more. In the "comprising" case, Froot Loops would infringe.

      The patent does have to define a "complete" system, and that's why they have the bit about the client entering "the search term and the listing". If you've got something materializing out of nowhere, the app gets bounced for incompleteness.

      That said, the patent is a monster: 7 independent claims and 60 dependent claims. If you really want to go nuts, read those.
  • by Tablizer (95088) on Friday April 05, 2002 @09:58PM (#3294309) Journal
    (begin violation)

    SELECT * FROM Matches ORDER BY BribeAmt DESC

    (end violation)
  • I firmly believe that the ranking system in place on google makes it a far better search engine. If I am looking about in their directory, I will more often than not hit the top 10 whether out of lazyness or whatnot. It helps measure the popularity of the site and the usefulness. Weeds out the crap links IMHO.
  • Geez, some of these patents are crazy. Instead of patenting REAL innovation, many folk are misusing the patent and legal system to try to gain a monopoly on obvious extentions to existing technologies.

    I think it's high time we asked Congress to pass a law which results in high damages to those who are caught attempting to patenting inventions that don't require innovation.

    Let's see. Drug companies spend millions on research. OK, perhaps they do merit a reward. Maybe a patent is the right thing.

    Online retailer creates software so advertisements appear based on user input. Hum, no, I don't think this is a notable innovation that merits a 20 year monopoly.

  • ...but I fear there's such a vast quantity of prior art in this area, I would be without a case.
  • Are there any patent lawyers reading this? I'm interested in patenting the method of increasing sales by naming my business something that begins with multiple letter 'A's so it comes first in the phone book.

    Signed John Martin,
    President, AAAAmbulance Chasers Insurance Company

  • That patent is cute. They seem to have patented the concept of interactively auctioning off search engine placement. I hadn't realized that GoTo worked that way. From the patent, not only do you pay for placement, there's a live ongoing auction for position. I thought they just had a fixed price list. The auction approach must drive their advertisers nuts.

    "We've just been outbid by Cheapo Inkjet Printer Cartridges! Do we raise our bid or fold?"

    Just what we needed; day trading for search engine placement.

    Google doesn't auction keywords, or at least claims not to.

  • I will stop this ridiculous insanity once and for all by enforcing MY patent #5,163,447 [uspto.gov] on:
    "A method for stopping patent infringements by suing the party committing the infringement."

    That's right. I have a patent on suing over patents.
    I will be demanding royalties from every jerk suing over a patent by USING my own patented process of suing infringers!

    -
  • by Alsee (515537)
    "The big fear...here is that ... We wouldn't have paid listings at all."

    I hope nobody gets a patent on bugs in programs. My biggest fear is that we wouldn't have bugs in programs at all.

    -

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