Doubleclick + Google: Looking at Some of the Doubleclick Patent Filings

Google made their largest acquisition to date with the purchase of advertising technology company Doubleclick for $3.1 Billion.

I wanted to look at some of the patent applications that the acquistion would bring to Google. In addition to a few that were developed by Doubleclick, I’ve listed some others that were acquired with companies purchased by Doubleclick.

Doubleclick Overview

Before the patent filings, a brief history of Doubleclick.

Doubleclick started out as a division of the Poppe Tyson advertising agency, but seems to have really gotten going after a merger between that division and the Internet Advertising Network, created by Kevin J. O’Connor and Dwight Merriman. The patent filings I’ve listed have one or the other or both listed as inventors.

The company began offering online ad serving and management technology in 1997.

They went through a controversial 1999 merger for $1.7 billion with data-collection agency Abacus Direct, but it doesn’t appear that the companies ever fully merged their technologies.

In April 2001, Doubleclick launched its Diameter Division, based upon technology acquired from the acquisition of online audience measurement firm @plan in 2000

DoubleClick was sold in July of 2005 to the private equity firm Helman & Friedman for $1.1 billion

In December of 2006 Abacus Direct was sold to Alliance Data.

One division of Doubleclick is Performics, which offers search engine and affiliate marketing services and technologies. Does this make Google an SEO company now?

A much more detailed history of Doubleclick is available on answers.com.

WIPO Patents Assigned to Doubleclick

Some overlap here with patent filings that I’ve located at the US Patent and Trademark Office.

1. Method and System for Sharing Anonymous User Information
(WO 2002/035314)

Published May 2, 2002
Doubleclick, Inc.

A method and system for sharing online user information in an anonymous manner. The system associates an identifier (100) with anonymized information of the user, and sends the anonymized user information to a receiving party (130).

In one embodiment, the system receives a temporary id with personally identifiable information from a Web site, uses the personally identifiable information as a key to obtain the anonymized information from a data source, and sends the temporary id with the anonymized information to the receiving party.

The receiving party uses the temporary id, previously received by the Web site, as a key to obtain the anonymized information of the user. In another embodiment, the system receives a temporary id from a Web sit…

2. Automated Online Sweepstakes System and Method
(WO 2001/059656)

Published August 16, 2001
Doubleclick, Inc.

An automated process of conducting an online sweepstakes and marketing to sweepstakes entrants. The software system enables a non-technical individual (e.g., sweepstakes manager, marketer, etc.) to create a sweepstakes entry form that is integrated with back-end data processing systems (figure 2, item 210).

The entry form and entry form processing system are kept consistent with sweepstakes rules chosen by the non-technical individual and automatically generated by the system. The system enforces compliance with applicable laws with integrated tools to pick winners, to determine eligibility and to collect winner affidavits.

A back-end database is integrated directly with a sweepstakes entry form. Online tools permit a marketer to view entra…

3. Network for Distribution of Re-targeted Advertising
(WO 2000/008802)

Published February 17, 2000
Doubleclick, Inc.

A computer system for automatic replacement of advertisements includes an advertising server for selecting an advertisement based on criteria related to the individual viewer.

In particular, advertisements are selected for a given user, based on the past behavior of that specific given user. Advertiser web sites on the network are configured to anonymously report back user activity such as visit dates, purchases, specific product pages visited and the like.

Alternative reporting embodiments include email, file transfer protocol and spotlight tags. User activity lists are processed to select candidates for re-targeting.

Candidates for re-targeted advertisements are identified based on their own individual past activity, and stored in a list …

4. Method and Apparatus for Automatic Placement of Advertising
(WO 1998/058334)

Published December 23, 1998
Doubleclick, Inc.

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 a…

Some USPTO Doubleclick Patent Filings:

These are either assigned to Doubleclick or show Dwight A. Merriman or Kevin O’Connor amongst the inventors.

System and method for analyzing website activity
Invented by Jonathan Marc Heller, James Christopher Kim, Dwight Allen Merriman, Andrew Joel Erlichson, Benjamin Chien-wen Lee
Assigned to Doubleclick, Inc.
United States Patent 7,085,682
Granted August 1, 2006
Filed: September 18, 2002

Abstract

A method and system for analyzing website activity. According to an example embodiment, the system receives event-level data representing visitor session activity on a client website;

attributes characteristic information of the event-level data associated with each visitor’s session to at least one of a plurality of visitor segments,

stores results of the attributed information aggregated according to visitor segment prior to a client-requested analysis of the event-level data,

and provides online reports based on the resultant data in response to a client-requested analysis of the event-level data.

Method and apparatus for automatic placement of advertising
Invented by Dwight A. Merriman and Kevin O’Connor
Assigned to Doubleclick, Inc.
United States Patent 7,039,599
Granted May 2, 2006
Filed: June 15, 1998

Abstract

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.

Method of delivery, targeting, and measuring advertising over networks
Invented by Dwight Allen Merriman and Kevin Joseph O’Connor
US Patent Application 20050038702
Published February 17, 2005
Filed: September 10, 2004

(There are 5 versions of this patent application on file at the USPTO)

Abstract

Methods and apparatuses for targeting the delivery of advertisements over a network such as the Internet are disclosed. Statistics are compiled on individual users and networks and the use of the advertisements is tracked to permit targeting of the advertisements of individual users.

In response to requests from affiliated sites, an advertising server transmits to people accessing the page of a site an appropriate one of the advertisement based upon profiling of users and networks.

Network for distribution of re-targeted advertising
Invented by Dwight A. Merriman and Kevin J. O’Connor
US Patent Application 20020082923
Published June 27, 2002
Filed: February 26, 2002

Abstract

A computer system for automatic replacement of advertisements includes an advertising server for selecting an advertisement based on criteria related to the individual viewer.

In particular, advertisements are selected for a given user, based on the past behavior of that specific given user. Advertiser web sites on the network are configured to anonymously report back user activity such as visit dates, purchases, specific product pages visited and the like. Alternative reporting embodiments include email, file transfer protocol and spotlight tags.

User activity lists are processed to select candidates for re-targeting. Candidates for re-targeted advertisements are identified based on their own individual past activity, and stored in a list of candidate user ID’s.

When a candidate on the re-targeted list is identified at any network affiliate web site, a re-targeted advertisement is delivered to the candidate user.

These are pretty much the same as the WIPO filings of the same names above:

The rest of these were developed by companies that were either acquired by Doubleclick, or where the patent was assigned to Doubleclick:

This first one was originally assigned to Decisive Technology Corporation:

Computer network based conditional voting system
Invented by John D. Chisholm
US Patent 5,400,248
Granted March 21, 1995
Filed September 15, 1993.

Abstract

A voting system allows voters to express and cast votes that are conditional on the votes of others of a voting group. Votes may be conditional on the votes of specific individuals, on the number or percent of the overall group who vote a certain way, external events or on any combination thereof.

The system solves the “common goods, free rider” dilemma in which voters oppose proposals they recognize as worthwhile out of fear that a few supporters will be burdened with all of the costs. The system specifies and enforces terms under which conditional voting will take place, and may manage the voting process across a network.

The system recognizes when either multiple solutions or no solutions to a set of votes exist. The system can determine which voters are responsible for these cases, and can invite them to change their votes, if they wish. The system can also determine the largest subset or subsets of a group of conditional votes that has no solution, for which there is a unique solution or multiple solutions.

Overall, the system leads to better and faster group decisions that are based on more complete voter knowledge than simply yes, no or abstain.

This next one is pretty interesting, and concerns a smart ad box showing on a page that displays different advertisements to users over time, based upon a recommendations system. (Recommended reading) Gary B. Robinson, the inventor has contacted me (8/12/2010) to let me know that Athenium was not acquired by Doubleclick, and is still an ongoing venture. According to the USPTO, the patent was assigned to a number of owners, eventually winding up with Google through their merger with Doubleclick. It’s possible that there may be an error in the patent assignment database, and it wasn’t, but I’m going to leave it here for now.

Automated collaborative filtering in world wide web advertising
Invented by Gary B. Robinson;
Assignee: Athenium, L.L.C.
US Patent 5,918,014
Granted June 29, 1999
Filed December 26, 1996

Abstract

On the World Wide Web, and other interactive media, it is possible to show different ads to different people who are simultaneously viewing the same content.

This invention is based on the fact that people who have shown a tendency for similar likes and dislikes in the past will show a tendency for such similarities in the future. Those people who strongly display such similarities with respect to a particular person (“the subject”) are referred to as that person’s “community.”

If the members of a subject’s community tend to click on a particular Web ad, then it is likely that the subject will also tend to click on that ad.

This invention combines techniques for: determining the subject’s community, and determining which ads to show based on characteristics of the subject’s community. The information used to determine whether a given individual should be in the subject’s community is gleaned from the individual’s activities in the interactive medium.

Means are provided to track a consumer’s activities so all the information he generates can be tied together in the database, e.g. by means of “cookies;” or by software running on the consumer’s computer, such as an in-line plug-in, a screensaver working in conjunction with the Web browser, or the Web browser itself.

A measure of similarity between individuals is generated. The individuals with the greatest calculated similarity become the subject’s community; e.g. clusters are formed of groups of very similar consumers. Ads are presented to the subject based on his community, optionally selected based on demographics associated with the community.

System and method for advertising
Invented by Gary B. Robinson,
US Patent Application 20010054001
Published December 20, 2001
Filed March 12, 2001

Abstract

A system and method for targeting advertising. Advertising targeting information is stored on a client.

Such information can be sensitive information that the user wishes to remain confidential. An advertisement is selected at the client for display to the user, based upon the advertising targeting information stored at the client. This can be accomplished using a software agent at the client.

The selected advertisement may be retrieved from client memory, or a request can be sent to a remote server to send the selected advertisement to the client.

These next patent applications were developed by L90, Inc., and Frank Addante has the the story of how Doubleclick now has them now in Startup 3.0: Internet advertising is good. No, it’s bad. Oh wait… it IS good!

Method and apparatus for transaction tracking over a computer network
Invented by Frank Addante
US Patent Application 20020004733
Published January 10, 2002
Filed May 7, 2001

Abstract

An apparatus and a method for tracking transactions over a computer network is provided.

An advertisement is provided to a user using a web client, such as a web browser, at a user node. The user selects the advertisement, e.g., by clicking on the advertisement, to request to an ad server for redirection to a transaction node associated with the advertisement.

The ad server formats a cookie and provides to the user node. When the user requests a transaction after the redirection, the transaction node sends a transaction confirmation after performing the transaction.

The transaction confirmation includes a command to record the transaction. In response to the command, the user node provides a query string and the cookie to the ad server for the transaction to be recorded.

Method and apparatus for selecting and delivering internet based advertising
Invented by Frank Addante
US Patent Application 20010036182
Published November 1, 2001
Filed: January 8, 2001

Abstract

A network based advertising selection system for selecting and delivering adverting content to a user computer.

A content server receives a request for content from a user computer and responds by transmitting content pages with space for one or more advertisements and a referral command to a direct connect server. The user computer follows the referral command and requests an advertisement from a direct connect server.

The direct connect server receives advertising selection criteria and generates and transmits a request for an advertisement to a advertisement selection server.

The creative selection server identifies of one or more advertisements and sends the location of the advertisement to the user computer.

In addition to expanding greatly the ability of Google to advertise on the Web, these patent filings also appear to provide Google with the opportunity to capture and measure information about how people use the Web.

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10 thoughts on “Doubleclick + Google: Looking at Some of the Doubleclick Patent Filings”

  1. Pingback: Alberto Saavedra 2.0 » Google’s Advertising Distribution System grows
  2. Hi William,

    you are asking “Does this make Google an SEO company now?” – I guess it does, LOL :))) SEO is a businessa after all, and although google may not make a parade of thise activity, it can still be a hidden business, even for monsters like google.

    Andrew

  3. Hi Andrew,

    It did seem like a conflict of interest for Google to run a search engine and a search engine optimization company. :)

    Google stated at the Official Google Blog a year ago today that they would be selling off the SEO part of Performics. The New York Post reported last August that French ad agency Publicis Groupe had agreed to purchase that part of the company.

    Part of what Performics did in the past involved affiliate marketing, and that has become the Google Affiliate Network.

  4. Affiliate Network… hm… looks like big players in the business like Commission junction should start shaking – big brother is coming over, make room for it!.. ))

    Anyway, let’s wait and see what arises.

  5. Google…running an seo company….can you define monopoly?
    Given that google has to withhold the real statistics concerning keyword searches and real PR, Id say that if they had sole access to that information, it would be like one airline having found a magical neverending fuel source!!!

  6. Hi Mike,

    It does seem like it would be a conflict of interest, doesn’t it? Google optimizing pages for Google search would be the same as selling rankings in the search engine by the search engine.

    Publicis Groupe purchased Performics from Google a little over a year ago, so the question has become a moot one.

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