One of the most talked-about patent applications from Google over the past couple of years was one that looked at how time might be incorporated into a system of ranking documents, and how time might help the search engine recognize when people might be attempting to manipulate (spam) search results.
The patent application was published in March of 2005 – Information retrieval based on historical data
Over the past couple of months, Google has had some new patent applications published which share a good amount of the description of that original patent filing, but contain new and modified claims.
- Document Scoring Based on Query Analysis
- Document Scoring Based on Traffic Associated with a Document
- Document Scoring Based on Document Inception Date
- Document Scoring Based on Link-Based Criteria
- Document Scoring Based on Document Content Update
So, why the new filings, and what happened to the original Historical Data Patent?
It appears that in the United States Patent and Trademark Office, there was a nonfinal rejection of the Historical Data patent application, with the patent examiner pointing towards this document as possibly being prior art:
The Historical Data patent application was also filed internationally and is present on the World Intellectual Property Organization web site.
A process used to investigate prior art internationally involves an International Searching Authority performing an investigation, and filing a report. The report there appears to be nonfinal also, but brings up some other documents are possibly being prior art that may cause some issues in having the patent application granted.
The International Searching Authority used may not necessarily be the final one used, but it’s interesting to see the documents that they came up with during their investigation:
- Search engine
- Web Information Retrieval – an Algorithmic Perspective
- Methods and apparatus for employing usage statistics in document retrieval
- (Having problems identifying the forth document listed.)
Google filed amendments and arguments for the Historical Data patent application at the end of March.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to link to those documents. On http://www.uspto.gov/patft/index.html, select the link for “Patent Application Information Retrieval (PAIR)” and check the box in front of “Publication Number,” then enter 20050071741 in the box below that for the number. Click on the “search” button. On the new page, click on the tab labeled “image file wrapper.” You should see a list of “Available documents.”
The ones to look at are:
03-27-2007 Applicant Arguments/Remarks Made in an Amendment
03-27-2007 Amendment – After Non-Final Rejection
Those are pdf documents, so you need the Adobe plugin or reader or look at them.
Google’s arguments seem reasonable, but it appears that they filed the new patent applications, each with more focused claims, in case there is a problem with the original historical data document. If you’re interested in the patent process, and in how Google may use temporal ranking factors, you may want to spend a little time with these documents.