The multinational Internet service corporation Yahoo!, Inc., is headquartered in Sunnyvale, CA, just one of many technology developers populating this corridor of Silicon Valley in Santa Clara County. Anyone who has visited Yahoo!’s main website is familiar with the wide breadth of online services offered by the company, including messaging services, online gaming, news readers and more. Recently, Yahoo! has been trying to break away from other social networking services offered by Facebook and Google by announcing that users can no longer access Yahoo! services through these login credentials. Yahoo!’s recent acquisition of Vizify, an online visual identity service, and their decision to shut the service down is a bold move to try and reduce competition in their online markets.
In today’s Companies We Follow column here at IPWatchdog, we’re taking a stroll down the Silicon Valley to see how Yahoo! has been faring recently at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. What we found were plenty of interesting inventions regarding consumer Internet technologies that will interest plenty of our readers, so we’ve gathered some of the best patent applications and issued patents assigned to Yahoo! by the USPTO.
We start our tour today with a look at a novel system of providing map information to a mobile device user. Using spatial metadata collected from a plurality of smart and “dumb” devices, users can access this system to pull contextual map information about individual buildings. We also discuss a couple of patent applications directed towards systems of collecting contact information for a user’s profile as well as a couple of systems for mood analysis.
Communication technologies are protected in a number of Yahoo! patents that we decided to look at today. These include a messaging service that incorporates online gaming activity as well as a system of better prioritizing and organizing received digital messages. We were also impressed by a couple of issued patents that protect better image recognition and news authority ranking systems.
System and Method for Context Enhanced Mapping
U.S. Patent Application No. 20140067844
We’ve featured so many innovations in the featured patent application section of our series that deal with smartphone technologies. Mobile electronic devices with enhanced computing functions is one of the most revolutionary consumer technologies available today, and Internet-based services companies like Yahoo! are heavily invested in developing and protecting inventions in this field.
The subject of metadata has become a topic of much discussion in recent months, mainly after privacy concerns developed when revelations of U.S. National Security Agency collection of metadata became common knowledge. For many private corporations, however, metadata collected from electronic devices and even “dumb” cell phones without computing technologies can be made into useful consumer services.
This patent application, filed with the USPTO by Yahoo! in November 2013, describes a technology designed to capture metadata from user devices in order to provide others with better systems of mapping. Spatial data about a building’s dimensions and social data pertaining to the activities taking place within the building are stored in this system. Later, other users can take advantage of that data through a software program that retrieves data from a global index.
The data presented to a mobile user can include maps of a building with other contextual information gathered from social and topical sources online. Useful metadata can be collected from a number of devices, including “dumb” cell phones and TV set top boxes. The data modeling system for this software program creates profiles for users, locations and individual devices that can create a useful representational map to a user.
Claim 43 (Claims 1 through 42 cancelled) of this Yahoo! patent application would protect:
“A method comprising: receiving, over a network at a computing device, a request for a map from a first user, said request comprising an identification of a physical location and at least one criteria; searching, via the computing device, data storage available to the network, the storage storing maps that comprise additional data added by a second user; identifying, via the computing device, using results of the search, a set of maps stored on the network that correspond to the physical location and the at least one criteria; communicating, via the computing device over the network, information associated with each map of said set of maps to said first user; receiving from said first user, at the computing device, a selection of an identified map of said set of maps; and communicating, over the network, the selected map to said first user for display on a device associated with the first user.”
Other Patent Applications
Yahoo!’s online communication technologies are used by hundreds of thousands of people, including both Yahoo! Mail and Yahoo! Messenger. In our look at this corporation’s developing technologies this week, we’ve noticed a number of patent applications that describe better systems of providing contact information to those with Yahoo! profiles. For example, U.S. Patent Application No. 20140052804, entitled Systems and Methods for Event-Based Profile Building, describes a system that can present address information to a user in response to a meeting request scheduled across the Yahoo! network. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140052803, which is titled Systems and Methods for Profile Building Using Location Information From a User Device, describes a technology that can prompt a user to collect useful contact information. This system judges user activity against a satisfaction threshold; once activity meets this threshold, the profile building software asks a user if they wish to collect address information.
Analysis of an Internet user’s mood is another focal point of a pair of patent applications that piqued our interest today. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140059430, filed under the title System and Method for Generating a Mood Gradient, can create a mood gradient based on characteristics of songs selected for a playlist. The mood gradient can be used to automatically generate a playlist of songs at a later point in time. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140046660, titled Method and System for Voice Based Mood Analysis, describes a system capable of building a mood profile through speech recognition technologies. The system utilizes acoustic speech inputs that are analyzed through a module that distinguishes voice patterns and identifies mood based on tone paramaters.
Issued Patents of Note
Yahoo! may not see the weekly output of issued patents from the USPTO like other corporate giants enjoy. Still, every week you can be sure that a few of this company’s developed technologies will be granted patent status in the American intellectual property system. Any of our IPWatchdog readers who are heavy users of Yahoo!’s Internet technologies will likely experience some of these innovations soon if they haven’t already.
Improvements to Yahoo!’s communication technologies again take center stage in our analysis of this company’s recently issued patents. Automated methods for building profile information in particular are protected by U.S. Patent No. 8661002, entitled Self Populating Address Book. Although the Claim 1 section is a little lengthy, severely narrowing the system protected by this patent, it does describe a novel system of updating contact information for Yahoo! user address books from outside sources. U.S. Patent No. 8645814, which is titled System and Method for Displaying Status of Electronic Messages, protects a better system for organizing digital communications, including e-mail and instant messaging services, so that users don’t miss important messages. This can include applying a color to the messages from certain contact or informing a user of when the message was received relative to their last interaction with the service. U.S. Patent No. 8663011, titled Game Server for Use in Connection With a Messenger Server, protects an instant messaging services for interactive gaming that better informs a user about what games their contacts are currently playing.
We were also intrigued by a couple of recently issued patents assigned to Yahoo! that protect improvements to other systems many Internet browsers will be familiar with, including news readers. U.S. Patent No. 8666990, issued under the title System and Method for Determining Authority Ranking for Contemporaneous Content, protects a system that identifies authors of ultra-fresh Internet content and judges their authority. The authority standard is created by an expert weighting system that judges an individual’s expertise against the subject matter. Finally, we were interested in the system protected by U.S. Patent No. 8634654, entitled Logo or Image Recognition. This system is capable of identifying logos to recognize organizations and certain locations in images uploaded by online social network users.