Google Authorship Markup Patent Applications Published

On September 8, 2011, Google filed a patent named “System and Method for Confirming Authorship of Documents,” (U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 61/532,511). This provisional patent expired on September 9, 2012 without being prosecuted. A day later, on September 10th, Google filed two new versions of the patent, using the same name for both of them. Google’s Othar Hansson’s name appears on both as lead inventor, and the description sections are substantially similar, with a couple of very small changes.

The claims sections of the two patents are different, however. The first patent application (US20130066970) describes a link based approach to claiming authorship of a site, or being a contributor to that site. The second patent application (US20130066971) describes an email based method of claiming authorship (or of being a contributor).

The approaches described in both patent filings appear to be substantially similar to the instructions that Google describes in their help pages starting at Author information in search results

There seems to be at least one difference that I uncovered in skimming through the documents, which involves the link based approach, and is described in this snippet from the patent applications descriptions sections:

As illustrated in FIG. 2, the authorship attribute 220 of link 216 indicates that the entity associated with document 214 is an author of or contributor to content at website 202. In some implementations, the authorship attribute 220 is rel=”contributor-to”. In some circumstances, the authorship attribute 220 is rel=”me”, which may be used to indicate that the entire website 202 contains content by the entity associated with document 214.

Google seems to have decided not to use a rel=”contributor-to” link attribute value when only some content on a site was from a specific author, and a rel=”me” when all of the content on a site was from the same author. That would probably be painful (or confusing) to change (from rel=”me” to rel=”contributor-to”) if someone who had been the only author of a site decided to accept a guest post or page from another author, and to use authorship markup to provide proper attribution.

If you see other things within the patent filings that appear to be different than how authorship was implemented, please let us know. :)

Here are the patent filings:

(In this one, the claims describe a link based approach to verification of authorship.)

System and Method for Confirming Authorship of Documents
Invented by Othar Hansson, Nundu Janakiram, Robert Ennals, Jonathan Tang, Jun Gong, and Wanda Hung
US Patent Application 20130066970
Published March 14, 2013
Filed: September 10, 2012

(In this version, the claims describe an email based approach to verification of authorship.)

System and Method for Confirming Authorship of Documents
Invented by Othar Hansson, Sagar Kamdar, and Michael Cassidy
US Patent Application 20130066971
Published March 14, 2013
Filed: September 10, 2012

Abstract (Same for Both)

A system, computer-readable storage medium storing at least one program, and a computer-implemented method for confirming authorship of documents is presented. A first document hosted on a first website of a first domain is accessed, the first document being linked to a second document through at least one link, and a respective link including a first predefined authorship attribute asserting authorship of a respective document including the respective link by a respective entity associated with a respective target document of the respective link.

Authorship of the first document by an entity associated with the second document is conditionally confirmed when the second document includes a second link to the first website of the first domain, the second link including a second predefined authorship attribute indicating that the entity associated with the second document is an author of or contributor to content at the first website of the first domain.

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6 thoughts on “Google Authorship Markup Patent Applications Published”

  1. Thanks for the info! I myself have wondered more than once what happens when someone tries to steal your site content. Hopefully these patents will enable Google to successfully identify the thieves and allow the real content creators to be secure in knowing that their content will not be stolen!

  2. Bill, it is really interesting timing for this to come out along with SMX having quite a bit of Authorship/Author Rank talk. It may just be coincidence but I was reccently asked about twitter using rel=”me”. I explained the relevence of the tag and the significance of building those relationships to web properties. It will be very interesting to see how Google weaves into the already exsisting mark-ups that are used by other social media sites. . . very eager to see how the dynamic of authorship continues to be built. Exciting stuff, thanks for update finding the contributor-to and me tags.

  3. I’ve only set up authorship markup for one site, so I can’t say I’ve got extensive experience in this, but I clicked through on the link to Google’s instructions, and I think there’s been a change. As I recall, the connection used to involve three pages: an article’s byline would link to the author’s profile page on that site, and that page would link to theiir G+ profile page, which would then link back to the site from the “contributor to” section.

    Now Google’s instructions say, “Create a link to your Google+ profile from your webpage…” with no mention of a third page. Is the “your webpage” they’re referring to the author’s profile page on their site and they’re just leaving out the idea that each article should link to that page, or are they saying that each and every article should link directly to the G+ profile, and the author doesn’t need to have a bio page on their site?

    Is this a change, or am I just remembering the recommended set-up incorrectly? I’m planning on recommending the use of authorship markup for a couple of sites I only found out my company runs a few days ago, so I’d better get this straight.

  4. Hi Bob,

    I remember that three page approach as well. Not sure that all sites do have an easily accessible additional “profile” page for authors. Making things simpler for someone trying to use authorship markup is probably a good idea. I have linked from my Google Plus page to profile pages when they are available.

    I’d definitely recommend using the approach Google lays out now, rather than how they might have presented it in the past.

  5. It is really exciting timing for this to come out laterally with SMX having quite a bit of Author Rank conversation. It may just be accident but I was lately asked about twitter using rel=”me”. I clarified the significance of the tag and the implication of building those interactions to web properties.

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