Google’s New Patents from IBM

Yesterday I noticed a very large number of new patents listed in the USPTO assignment records for Google from IBM, and made note of them in a post, Google Acquires Over 1,000 IBM Patents in July.

I didn’t expect or anticipate the interest that my post would stir up, though I probably should have, given what seems to be an increased amount of litigation directed at Google involving patent infringement claims, with Apple taking on HTC and Google, Oracle and Google disputing use of Java in Android, Purple Leaf taking exception to Checkout, and other suits.

Given the interest in the IBM patents in a number of places on the web and some conversations I had, I thought it might be a good idea to provide the list of patents that Google acquired earlier this month. Google acquired a number of additional patents from IBM earlier this year and last year as well. I included those in my February post, Google Patents, Updated and Google Self Driving Cars Get Jumpstart from IBM Patents.

In yesterdays’ post, I mentioned that these newly acquired patents cover a wide range of topics, and I’ve had little chance to go through most of them. Some appear to be very broad, while others are much more narrow. Google might find a number of them useful in covering activities they are engaged in presently, such as the manufacture of a very large number of servers. Some include industries that Google might not venture into, such as the fabrication of chips. Many of them might act to help limit litigation aimed at Google.

The list is below (1,029 in total – I miscounted and stated yesterday that there were 1,030 of them), with the links that includes the patents’ names pointing to the patents themselves at the USTPO, and the links with the patents’ numbers pointing to the patent assignment information for each patent. Some of them may not be that exciting, while others might stick out for one reason or another. If you find any of them of particular interesting for one reason or another, please let me know. Thanks.


36 thoughts on “Google’s New Patents from IBM”

  1. Good grief. Those patents cover tons of different subjects, many of them hardware related many of them processing based.

    They are really covering their bases for a lot of different things…I guess Oracle, Microsoft and Apple are next…well, maybe not Apple. They play by their own rules…:)


  2. Bill:

    You are a bulldog. You do not sleep (obviously). You know your stuff.
    A very knowledgeable sleep deprived bulldog. Sounds dangerous.

  3. This really is a strange collection of patents for Google to have much interest in. There are a couple which I can imagine them using (but certainly no more than 2-3%). I can well imagine IBM wanting to unload them; most are too old or too narrow and IBM-specific to get much traction in a licensing deal. But why Google would pay for them is a mystery. I wonder if there’s an interesting backstory that we’re not being told, and this was a way to transfer some money from Google to IBM (in settlement of some other obligation) that was above board.

  4. @Peter
    It was probably an ebay style bulk buy. Google went after a few specific patents that they really faniced and got lumbered with the other 999 in the same package. There are probably just a few ideas in the pipeline that these patents help with. I cant imagine that they are planning any significant creations based on these.

  5. Shame – none of mine are listed! You are all right, this is a very interesting and surprising collection of patents. These are my personal views.

  6. maybe they bought a whole bunch to cover which ones they really are interested in.

  7. I have to admit I do not understand the reasoning behind Google attempting to collect all of these patents, however it must be somehow related to their attempts to rule the Digital Domain. It is better to be first than best, and Google is attempting to break into other markets regarding hardware as well.

    Thanks for the conversation, I enjoyed reading the comments!

    Chris K.

  8. Wow Bill – This is one to bookmark and come back too – I think I’ve already spent far too much of my working day reading through these.

    I have to say – this one jumped out at me for all the wrong reasons:

    System, Method And Program To Generate A Blinking Image (7271815)

  9. Hi Mark,

    The range of technologies covered in the patents is remarkable. I suspect that Google will continue to acquire patents from other sources as well at a fair clip over the months to come.

  10. Hi Peter,

    Both Google and IBM are pretty quiet on the details of the acquisition, though Google has acquired some other patents from IBM that are on point with things that Google is developing, such as a number involving self driving cars, and I also listed another 51 from IBM on my Updated Google Patents post in February, many of which focused upon video applications.

    Many of the patents are old, narrow, or IBM specific, but there are a number in there that I found pretty interesting. For instance, I wrote about one of them a few years back: Search Indexing Dead Ends: IBM Patent Explores Dangling Nodes. At the time it seemed like something I would expect to see come from Google, so I was excited to see it included with these patents.

    I’d love to hear whatever backstory there might be to this transfer of intellectual property.

  11. Hi PJ,

    That’s as good a hypothesis as any. Just the sheet additional bulk of patents that someone might have to check through before they might consider initiating a patent infringement suit against Google provides some value to the search engine, though there may be some that may provide a start on projects that Google is considering working upon. For instance, I recently read about a project that Google’s Steve Yegge is working upon that might be assisted by one or more of these patents:

    Now, as it happens, I am in fact working on a very cool project at Google. It’s not important in the same sense that curing cancer or getting clean water to impoverished cities are important. But it’s a project that has the potential to revolutionize software development, and NOT through some new goddamn dependency-injection framework or web framework or other godawful embarrassing hacky workaround for a deficient programming language. No. It is a project that aims to turn source code — ALL source code — from plain text into Wikipedia. I’ve been on it for three and a half years, and I came up with the idea, and the team running with the idea is fantastic. The work may not be directly important, but it is an enabler for important work, much like scaling infrastructure is an enabler.

  12. Hi BMG,

    Sorry yours were in there. I’m still making my way through the list. I’ve read a few of them, but want to look at a good number more. Sometimes the titles of patents aren’t very revealing when it comes to what they do actually cover.

  13. Hi Andrew,

    I suspect that’s the case. It looks like IBM did some bundling here – “if you want to buy these patents, we’ll sell them to you if you buy these other ones as well.”

    And it would make sense that Google would buy more than the ones that they might be most interested in to keep everyone from pinpointing the impacts of a much smaller number of patents.

  14. Hi Chris,

    Thank you. Google does do a lot of manufacturing of their own hardware, and a 2006 New York Times article guoted Martin Reynolds, an analyst with the Gartner Group as saying, “Google is the world’s fourth-largest maker of computer servers, after Dell, Hewlett-Packard and I.B.M.”.

    Many of these patents involve computer and server and network hardware. It’s possible that they might want to branch out in other areas as well.

  15. Hi Echwa,

    Funny, but those were ones that I found interesting enough from looking at their titles to stop and read through as well.

    Here’s your list with the titles:

    Identifying Duplicate Documents From Search Results Without Comparing Document Conten (5913208)
    Method And System For Processing Electronic Search Expressions (6598040)
    System And Method For Maintaining Up-To-Date Link Information In The Metadata Repository Of A Search Engine (6611835)
    System, Method And Service For Ranking Search Results Using A Modular Scoring System (7257577)
    Method For Graphically Representing Clickstream Data Of A Shopping Session On A Network With A Parallel Coordinate System (7266510)
    System And Method For Generating A Company Group User Profile (7266503)

    Some of these patents do focus upon what might be considered core areas of what Google does presently. As I mentioned to BNG though, sometimes the title of a patent isn’t very clear on what it actually covers, so I expect to be spending some time going through these over the next few months.

  16. Hi Tom,

    Same here – a chance discovery turned into a lot more work than I had expected or anticipated, but looking back I’m glad that I recognized the importance of this acquisition and jumped on it. I don’t know if Google would have contacted the media about these patents if I hadn’t written about them first, but I’m glad that they did – it provided some validation of my post.

    The blinking image patent stopped me in my tracks when I first came across it, and I was tempted to joke about it in my first post, but I restrained myself. :)

  17. That is a massive list. Anyone find anything that would help them defend against an MPEG-LA patent pool claim over VP8/WebM ?

  18. Hi pd,

    It’s possible that there are, though I haven’t studied the specific patents in question involved in the dispute, so I can’t tell you for certain. I do know that Google did acquire some patents from IBM involving video (more listed on this page, but I don’t know if any of those are specifically on point.

  19. I know that this is a fantastical thing to say, but I am pretty sure I understand a large portion of these patents. Without going into detail, Google has (is) a beast. IBM Already has a (more like 2) beast(s). Entities. These patents are either about design and control or control what is already loose. Like I said, I’m not going into detail. Just look them over and ask yourself: If I had an AI that would be everything anime has dreamed (nightmared) one to be, would any of these other patents make more sense?

  20. It doesn’t surprise me that Google has all the patents with a company giant such as IBM as Google is the dominate or 800 pound Gorilla in this industry, so teaming with IBM makes sense. What about regulation of sorts?

  21. Hi Juzi,

    Just the sheer numbers of patents that were involved will probably make many think twice before filing a patent-based lawsuit against Google.

  22. Hi Greg,

    IBM still has an incredibly large portfolio of patents granted over many years, and is granted more patents every year than most other companies.

    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or Department of Justice (DOJ) does look into and investigate this kind of transaction when it might receive complaints, or where it thinks that kind of investigation might be appropriate. See for example: Antitrust Concerns Over the $4.5B Apple-Microsoft-RIM Patent Purchase

  23. Hi Bill and Greg,

    I think the keyword I meant to emphasize was Entities. I was not being metaphorical. Few would argue that Google has become a learning and growing entity. The executives at google themselves describe search as such. Watson, IBM’s latest pride and joy, is being used for bigger (but not necessarily better) endeavors than Jeopardy.
    Hmm. There are simply too many pieces to pull together to make the coherent argument I have to make.
    Anyone interested, I would suggest looking into IBM’s plans for cities throughout the U.S. Specifically a roadmap starting from June this year to 2014.
    Check out a bit about what Watson is and what it can do.
    Basically, I see some of these patents as major components to what Watson is, and what Watson could be. I have no way to justify this, other than the fact that I felt at one point that I was on to a set of algorithms that could be used to make a system that would essencially do what Watson does. I am a nobody that had nothing to do with the project. I just like to play around with numbers.
    Anyway, before I found out that Watson existed, I planned on writing a Science Fiction novel that would expose some of these different methods (not just algorithms) to tie the story together nicely. The story, which has been postponed due to my current pursuit in a computer degree (can’t just play around with numbers forever), was/is not a happy one. I know that this could predispose me to be a bit paranoid, but IbM has followed the pattern of my unwritten story since just before it released Watson. If there is any merit to my fantastical dillusions, Watson needs input. (Just like Johnny 5 from Short Circuit) Where better than Google?
    Unless Googles Beast has a mind of its own.

    Hey, you think I’m crazy. Fine. Just be entertained.

  24. Notice that the patents aren’t evenly distributed along the numeric range. I suspect that there are about five jewels hidden in there, and Google doesn’t want anyone to figure out what they are. Each grouping contains one or two of those jewels.

  25. Hi Juzi,

    I met someone who was the leader of a singularity society a few years back, and he made some interesting arguments for the possibility of computers becoming self-aware.

    There are a lot of people who are concerned with the possibility. I know that IBM holds some very important patents when it comes to computers, but I don’t know how many of those might have been included in the patents transferred over to Google.

    It is pretty fascinating to watch the progress that Watson is making.

    I remember Peter Norvig, who is head of research for Google and wrote one of the text books that many CS students use in AI classes, stated that Google still has a long way to go when it comes to AI.

  26. Hi Dan,

    There is a pretty wide mix of patents. I ordered them in numeric order, so that the ones that had been granted earliest are at the top, and the ones that have been granted latest are at the bottom. I don’t know that the numbers themselves have that much significance since those are assigned by the USTPO. I also “grouped” them in groups of 100 (except fo the last group) so that it might be a little easier for someone looking through them, so that they had some visual breaks. I figured that a big list of over 1,000 might be harder to read.

  27. Interesting Patents. But I liked this one the most “Identifying Duplicate Documents From Search Results Without Comparing Document Content (5913208)”.
    Also Bill I would like to point out a minor typo in the same line.You have written ‘conten’ instead of ‘content’

  28. Hi Geek Revealed,

    Thanks for catching the typo – I had to doublecheck to make sure that it wasn’t a typo on the patent itself – believe it or not, they do sometimes have typos within them.

    It is an interesting patent. It does a great job of describing how search engines worked in the days before things like PageRank added the idea of link popularity into how pages are ranked, and I suspect that its way of detecting duplicate content is probably an approach that Google and Bing both probably follow today as one way of checking for duplicate pages.

  29. It’s possible that it is started the end of the war of patents: If everyone has patents on which to retaliate, it’s like no one own them, so at the end of the games they will find an agreement to end the war.

  30. Hi Giuseppe,

    It is possible that if Google has a strong enough and broad enough portfolio of patents that it might deter some of the lawsuits that might otherwise come their way, and that was the reason Google’s General Counsel mentioned in a blog post on one of the offficial Google blogs earlier this year for Google’s pursuit of more patents.

    But I think we will see see suits started from patent trolls that acquire patents solely for the purpose of starting litigation, that don’t actually manufacture anything of their own, and might not have a concern about retaliatory lawsuits that might impact their companies negatively.

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