Exalead Patent Granted for Unified Search Using Categories and Keywords

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French search engine Exalead was granted a patent this week on a query refinement process that provides suggestions for categories and keywords in response to a search.

Searching tool and process for unified search using categories and keywords
Invented by Francois Bourdoncle, Patrice Bertin, and Eric Jeux
Assigned to Exalead
United States Patent 7,152,064
Granted December 19, 2006
Filed: August 14, 2001


A database of entries, such as Web pages and sites, is provided. The entries are at least partially mapped to a set of predetermined categories. The entries are also associated with keywords, for instance, by automatic indexing of documents. In response to a query into the database, a user is provided with a series of refinement strategies, in addition to search results. Refinement strategies comprise categories relevant for the search, selected among the set of predetermined categories. Refinement strategies also include keywords dynamically selected among keywords associated with the entries. The user may easily navigate among the results to the query, and formulate new queries.

If you try a search on Exalead, the query refinements appear in a box on the right of the results. I haven’t used Exalead that much in the past, but I do like that they offer some search options that I haven’t seen on many other search engines, such as phonetic spelling (soundslike) and adjacent words (near).

There are a couple of published patent applications in the USPTO database for Exalead, also:

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2 thoughts on “Exalead Patent Granted for Unified Search Using Categories and Keywords”

  1. Seems like you could say that Vivisimo, Clusty, Wisenut, and Teoma all doing that before 2001. For that matter, the directory results on top of the search listings that you got from Yahoo, Altavista, Lycos, Netscape Search, etc. all basically did that too. And they had a taxonomically-managed set of refinement categories, instead of the (semi-useless) random attempt at clustering based on link/similarity.

  2. Hi Rich,

    I’m not quite sure what really would have made this unique enough to have been granted patent protection, but it was. The original provisional patent this came from was filed in 2000, so prior art that might have acted to question it may have had to have been around prior to 1999.

    The distinction that they attempt to make in the filing is that in addition to offering a fixed set of categories, they provide a dynamic set of keywords as potential query refinements, derived from searching through documents in relevant results and those other categories. But, you’re right. I think we’ve been seeing people doing that for a while.

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