Oracle Seeks to Patent Defenses Against Search Engine Tracking

By Steve Brachmann
January 29, 2014

The Oracle Corporation, based in Redwood City, CA, is a major developer of software solutions for use in organizations. Its products include customer relationship management, database management and supply chain management software, as well as computer hardware, including servers. Oracle’s cloud-based services are enabling some colleges to provide extensive application suites online that create Internet access to a wide range of student services. A major American corporation, Oracle’s presence is growing in many regions of the world, like India, who about two-thirds of domestic corporations anticipate migrating many business services and activities to the cloud.

Companies We Follow has returned once again to the California headquarters of this major corporate software and hardware developer to get a quick look at its recent innovations. The patent applications and issued patents published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that are assigned to Oracle can give us an idea of the near future of enterprise software solutions.

We’re featuring one patent application today that discusses some very interesting improvements to online privacy while using search engines. This system creates data that obfuscates the search query submitted by a user so that it cannot be tracked by a third party, while still providing relevant search results. Other patent applications describing business software innovations include a method of generating consumer decision trees based on in-store transaction records, and a way to prevent others from copying the text of sensitive electronic documents.

The issued patents assigned recently to Oracle highlight some interesting intellectual property holdings that further advance the corporation’s goal in providing inclusive software solutions for businesses. Business connected to a distributed pool of network resources shared with others will benefit from an electronic resource broker agent protected in one patent.

 

Defense Against Search Engine Tracking
U.S. Patent Application No. 20140026221

As of May 2013, the Google search engine was handling an average of 100 billion unique queries per month, according to this article published by CNET. For the most part, search engine results from Google and other engines are returned within a few seconds. Each of these results are algorithmically determined to be relevant to the user performing the keyword search. This has given the average Internet user an incredible ability to index the entire World Wide Web, a privilege so often used that we likely forget about its revolutionary importance in the Information Age.

However, there are some drawbacks to using these systems, at least perceived drawbacks that may prevent a user from performing a particular search. Search engines are owned and operated by third parties who connect an Internet user to a website, and the collection of private data by third parties has been the subject of concern in America over the past year, due in large part to revelations about the U.S. National Security Agency’s data collection practices. Both individual and organizational privacy could be compromised; if a business performs various searches about a particular technology, the collected data could give someone an inside knowledge of a private organization’s activities, which they could use malevolently in certain cases.

This patent application, filed by Oracle with the USPTO, aims to protect a system that would offer additional protections to search engine users for privatizing their search queries. In this system, a user enters a search query into an engine. An application running on the user’s computer is able to generate noise information that can be attached to the search query. The computer then sends the search query to the engine, and the noise information is meant to prevent others from being able to decipher the exact search query.

The noise information that this system generates isn’t completely random. In one embodiment of this invention, an application would analyze the search query and look for similar keywords to add to the query. The noise information could also be programmed to indicate the original keywords to the search engine, allowing them to separate the query from the noise. The encryption of search queries using this system could operate without additional input from the computer user to indicate that a search result should be private or has noise information attached to it.

Claim 1 of this Oracle patent would provide protections for:

“A computer-implemented method for enhancing electronic privacy, comprising: obtaining, at a first computer system, a search query response corresponding to a search query that have has been submitted to a search engine of a second computer system by a user computer system of a user; generating, based at least in part on the obtained search query response, noise information that identifies at least one of the user or the search query; and providing, by the first computer system, the generated noise information to an application of the user computer system in a manner enabling the application to submit, on behalf of the user, one or more noise queries to the search engine that are based at least in part on the generated noise information.”

 

Other Patent Applications

As a major innovator of database management technologies, the Oracle Corporation typically sets the global benchmark for that sector of enterprise software solutions. Today, we’ve noticed a couple of applications that describe some novel improvements to Oracle’s customer service and customer relationship management software products. For example, U.S. Patent Application No. 20140016761, entitled Automatic Clustering and Visualization of Data Trends, would help automated customer service call centers better adjust their resources in response to caller trends. This system would visualize caller requests in such a way that a call center manager could be presented with a graphical representation conveying customer call information, like the rate of prevalence of a product malfunction. Better predictive models of consumer buying decisions are the goal of U.S. Patent Application No. 20130346352, which is titled Consumer Decision Tree Generation System. This system is able to analyze a retail business’s transaction records to provide more accurate consumer decision trees used to predict buying patterns than current versions which are created by brand manufacturers.

Other software inventions that Oracle is seeking to protect would alter the way people interact with digital files. Electronic document security is aided by the technology described in U.S. Patent Application No. 20140022260, entitled Electronic Document That Inhibits Automatic Text Extraction. This system attaches glyph data to fonts used in a document creation program that makes it more difficult to copy text as an unauthorized viewer. We also noticed U.S. Patent Application No. 20140019455, filed under the title Historical View of Open Files, which would protect a more intuitive system of creating backups for computer systems to respond to important software and file change events rather than a regular schedule.

From U.S. Patent Application No. 20140022260, entitled “Electronic Document That Inhibits Automatic Text Extraction.”


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Issued Patents of Note

As our readers know, the real marrow of a company’s framework of intellectual property is the patent holdings issued to that company from the USPTO. We always see plenty of recently issued patents whenever we’ve visited Oracle in the past, and this time around is no different. In this Companies We Follow focus on Oracle’s issued patents, we’re seeing some very interesting developments that may provide more benefits for smaller companies that could use improvements in their IT infrastructure, as well as some useful business planning applications.

Businesses that have IT needs that can’t always be met by their network resources may benefit from the distributed pool resource system protected by U.S. Patent No. 8635349, entitled Method and System for Managing Computing Resources Using an Electronic Broker Agent. This system would use an electronic broker to determine if an organizational network needs access to additional hardware and providing that access if a distributed resource pool is available within the building or neighborhood. U.S. Patent No. 8631069, issued under the title Web and Multi-Media Conference, enables multimedia web conferencing, which can also provide quick file sharing services, between parties that are using incompatible web conferencing applications. Customer relationship management software is again on focus in U.S. Patent No. 8627232, which is titled Graphical Tool for Defining a Set of Ranges. This system allows a business the ability to apply product discounts based on a series of parameters, such as current quantity. It should be noted that, although the innovations in the ‘232 and ‘349 patents have great applications for businesses, the length of the Claim 1 section in both may render each patent pretty narrow in terms of what it actually protects.

From U.S. Patent No. 8,627,232, which is titled “Graphical Tool for Defining a Set of Ranges.”

A couple of other software technologies receiving official patent status from the USPTO have some pretty lofty goals of aiding various areas of business operations. U.S. Patent No. 8626572, entitled Sales Performance Management Through Quota Planning, can help a business create better periodical sales quotes through analysis of top-down performance goals and a bottom-up recommendation based on previous sales performance within a region. We were also intrigued by U.S. Patent No. 8626549, titled Calendar-Driven Business Intelligence. This patent protects a method of improving current notification systems for important human-executed business tasks, such as approving reports, that can prioritize requests based on time constraints and cost of delay.

The Author

Steve Brachmann

Steve Brachmann is a writer located in Buffalo, New York. He has worked professionally as a freelancer for more than a decade. He has become a regular contributor to IPWatchdog.com, writing about technology, innovation and is the primary author of the Companies We Follow series. His work has been published by The Buffalo News, The Hamburg Sun, USAToday.com, Chron.com, Motley Fool and OpenLettersMonthly.com. Steve also provides website copy and documents for various business clients.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

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