Located in Sunnyvale, CA, the American multinational corporation Yahoo! Inc. is a major developer of Internet services that are used worldwide. Every month, hundreds of millions of users access Yahoo! websites and services, making it one of the most popularly visited American websites on the Internet. Recently, the company announced a new online picture printing program called Flickr Photo Books that would integrate photos stored on Flickr. Yahoo!’s fiscal strength is evidenced with the announcement that the company is increasing a share buyback program by $5 billion, a decision that’s resulted in rising stock prices for Yahoo! in recent days.
We haven’t profiled Yahoo! before in IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series, but we’re starting to take a closer look as we notice the company showing up often in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office publishings. Recently, the company has filed a large number of patent applications and has been issued a fair amount of patents, all focused on various innovations for its array of Internet services and applications.
In today’s column, we’re going in-depth to explore a patent application that would notify mobile device users of nearby events. These events would be collected from social media applications and filtered based on a user’s interest and proximity to the user, helping that person find interesting events that they were unaware of. Also, a couple of patent applications describe improvements to social networks available through Yahoo!, both on an individual and a group basis.
The patent holdings of Yahoo! encompass a wide array of web services, especially those that are related to the website’s search engine. One recently issued patent protects a system of removing spam websites from search engine results, while another discusses a method of improving the accuracy of color-based searches. Collaboration on eBook documents and better notification systems for fantasy sports players are also on focus in a few other issued patents we’re exploring here.
Mobile-Based Realtime Location-Sensitive Social Event Engine
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130297688
The instant informational resources that can be accessed through a smartphone or other mobile electronic device is a great benefit to users. Beyond basic telephone services, software applications on these computing devices can provide updated news reports, personal organizational tools, multimedia services and more. Many find their smartphone to be indispensable for staying connected to the wider world around them while on the go.
Although Internet access and other communication tools can put users in touch with the information they need to know, there are no good systems in place for informing users of interesting events they might not know about. For example, a tourist in a city might be a fan of jazz, but may not know about a live performance near their current area. Mobile device users would benefit from being informed of local events they may want to attend.
This patent application, filed with the USPTO by Yahoo!, would protect a system of sending online event recommendations to a person through a mobile device. An event mining component of this system searches through social networks, including Twitter, Facebook and Yahoo! Social Updates, to find events that may be of interest to a user based on that user’s interest profile.
Once these events have been extracted, they are then ranked based on a few factors, including proximity to the mobile device user’s location and social relevance, or number of people within a social network that are attending the event. This service could also provide discounted ticket offers for groups of friends interested in an event. For recurring events, this system could function as an event-based social network, according to the patent application’s description section.
Claim 1 of this Yahoo! patent application would provide protections for:
“A method for performing an on-line recommendation, said method comprising: using a processor device, performing: analyzing real-time data from various sources; determining, from the analysis, events in which a user may be interested; extracting the determined events; storing the extracted events in a data store; and performing a recommendation function, comprising: ranking the extracted events to determine the events in which the user is most likely to be interested; and performing location-based filtering, retaining only those extracted events that are within a geo-location range proximate to the user to generate optimal events.”
Other Patent Applications
Yahoo! attempts to deliver a suite of web services for online users, including its search engine, e-mail, news, video sharing and mapping applications. The many patent applications coming out of the USPTO and assigned to this corporation show an interesting amount of research into improving online experiences for users through social engineering. For instance, U.S. Patent Application No. 20130304731, entitled Behavior Targeting Social Recommendations, would protect a method of suggesting contacts on a social network based on like interests. This system is designed to open up suggested contacts beyond current systems that rely heavily on friends of friends within a network. U.S. Patent Application No. 20130311556, titled System and Method for Generating Theme Based Dynamic Groups, describes a system that would allow social media users to create groups and send invitations to those outside of that person’s social circle. Both of these applications would protect innovations meant to widen a user’s online social experiences instead of constructing them as a reflection of that user’s real world experiences.
Other patent applications discuss improved methods of providing media to online users in a way that is more responsive to user actions and attitudes. Users of Yahoo!’s video services will likely benefit from U.S. Patent Application No. 20130308921, which is titled Creating Video Synopsis for Use in Playback. When a user stops a video and restarts that streaming feed after some time has passed, this system can provide a video synopsis of important scenes that a user has already seen. The viewer can watch this synopsis to be reminded of what they watched earlier without having to watch the entire video again.
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130304686, titled Methods and Systems for Personalizing User Experience Based on Attitude Prediction. This system can personalize content and advertisements displayed based on a user’s preferences. This system differs from current methods that rely heavily on a user’s online activity by taking into account a user’s online attitude towards the content they’ve accessed. These attitude models can be built using data about a person’s social media activity, privacy preferences or even e-mail communications.
Issued Patents of Note
The patent portfolio held by Yahoo! Inc. is a treasure trove of innovations regarding online engineering of applications for improving a myriad of user experiences. Every week, the USPTO is busy issuing several patents to this multinational corporation. Here at IPWatchdog, we’re picking a few of the most intriguing recent issued patents to profile, giving our readers a look into Yahoo!’s strength in Internet innovation.
One of Yahoo!’s most used web services is its search engine, and a couple of issued patents protect a few interesting developments to this system. For instance, U.S. Patent No. 8,583,778, which is titled Identifying Exceptional Web Documents, protects a system that detects websites that have included a large amount of spam in order to rank higher in search engine results. The system could keep those suspicious websites from showing up in response to user search queries. U.S. Patent No. 8,577,134, entitled Method and System of Facilitating Search by Color, describes a method of searching for items in a shopping context based on color. We recently profiled a similar patent awarded to Amazon.com, which improved color searches by grouping multiple hues and shades into color regions that could narrow search results. The Yahoo! ‘134 patent relies more on analyzing the syntax of a user’s search query to ensure that a color isn’t mistaken for a keyword for a retailer or manufacturer.
We’re also focused on a series of issued patents related to Yahoo!’s entertainment and social applications. Members of Yahoo! communities can more easily work together on written documents as a result of U.S. Patent No. 8,589,804, which is titled Collaborative Electronic Books. Books and documents created through this system could be made available to others through online means for a price, allowing collaborators to make money from their work. U.S. Patent No. 8,572,216, titled Social Network Building, allows mobile device users to better share network identifiers, like an e-mail address, with other contacts they’ve made in the real world. Finally, we’ve taken a quick look at Yahoo!’s fantasy sports games with U.S. Patent No. 8,568,236, issued under the title Fantasy Sports Agents. This system would give users of Yahoo! fantasy sports better news updates regarding players on their team or available players within their league for a multitude of sports.