IBM Computing Patents: Smarter E-mail to Blocking Commercials

Several days ago we profiled recent IBM patent applications. For this follow-up article we’ve gone through scores of patents issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to find you the latest and greatest in recently patented computing innovations.

The corporation has a proud history in intellectual property development, as is evidenced by the more than 60,000 patent plaques displayed at IBM’s headquarters in Armonk, NY. IBM (NASDAQ: IBM) is also proactive in the its scrutiny of intellectual property protection, as is evidenced by its recent decision to petition the Patent Trial and Appeal Board to declare invalid a series of patents in telecommunications fields held by Intellectual Ventures Management.

Today’s column focuses solely on the inventions recently added to IBM’s patent portfolio; everything you see below represents a technology for which IBM has been issued a U.S. patent grant from late August and into September 2014. Telecommunications innovations are included among this, specifically systems for e-mail organization and telephone call filtering. We share a trio of patents protecting computer languages and networking technologies. Social networking analysis technologies and a couple of inventions related to accessibility programs for computer users with impairments are also featured. Television viewers may be intrigued as well to learn about the novel technique for blocking unwanted commercial content protected by another IBM patent that we explored today.

For more about IBM patents and patent applications please see Companies We Follow: IBM.


Innovations for Smarter E-Mail and Telephony

International Business Machines has created a wide range of software solutions offering analytics technologies to improve business communications, including products for enhancing customer analytics and call center operations. Organizations and individuals alike can always benefit from more effective means of sorting through e-mails or routing telephone calls to keep them in touch with the customers or other contacts who need them most while reducing the distraction of unnecessary communications. Today, we found a couple of recently issued patents protecting inventions developed for this purpose.

More effective telephone call filtering technologies which can separate unwanted phone calls from desirable calls are the focus of U.S. Patent No. 8837694, issued under the title Smarter Telephony and E-mail Protocols. This patent protects an apparatus that includes a fee module which assigns a fee to an incoming caller which is based upon the nature of the incoming call. Once the caller accepts the fee, a connection module connects the incoming call to a system user. This system also provides an exemption list module and a matching module which determines if any incoming callers have been placed on an exemption list and waives the fee for callers who are on that list. Methods for the better organization of e-mails based on contextual information attached to an e-mail by a sender are disclosed and protected by U.S. Patent No. 8838701, which is titled Automatic Categorization of Email in a Mail System. This patent protects a method of associating a rule with an e-mail at a sending end and using that sending rule to interact with an e-mail rule at a receiving end for routing an e-mail to a folder. This technique for helping a sender participate in e-mail categorization helps to keep categorization seamless on the receiver’s end and reduces their burden for keeping an inbox organized.



Computer Language and Networking Technologies

The strong position of IBM in the world of computing technology development relies in large part on the company’s knowledge base in computing languages. A couple of patented technologies we’re touching on today discuss inventions from IBM designed to improve aspects of working with various computing languages. The company’s research into computer language innovations has led to the creation of an entirely new programming architecture for cognitive computing technologies.

Unified Parallel C, an extension of C programming language used in large-scale parallel computing environments, may see improvements in runtime performance thanks to the invention outlined in U.S. Patent No. 8839216, issued under the title Compiler Optimization Based on Collectivity Analysis. The IBM patent protects a system comprised of a processor and a compiling element to more effectively implement the barrier synchronization technique used in UPC, which is designed to execute resources associated with a plurality of threads within a command in a synchronous manner. IBM received support for the creation of this invention through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which retains certain rights in this invention. A technique for enabling better debugging of extensible markup language (XML) files and documents has also been protected for IBM through U.S. Patent No. 8839207, which is titled Debugging Extensible Markup Language. This patent protects a method of inserting a breakpoint into an XML document and then converting that document into bytecode format that can be generated during runtime. This method is much less time and resource consuming than conventional methods of debugging XML documents used for dynamic data applications, especially when relatively large software applications are involved.

U.S. Patent No. 8839207, which is titled “Debugging Extensible Markup Language.”

IBM is also heavily invested in cloud networking technologies for business solutions, an area of focus which will likely be enhanced by the company’s recent partnership with AT&T to develop hybrid cloud computing environment solutions. Techniques for better processing of user commands in cloud networks are disclosed and protected by U.S. Patent 8838799, which is titled Command Management in a Networked Computing Environment. The computer-implemented method for identifying commands protected by the patent provides better techniques for communicating across layers of a cloud from various devices and while interacting with different applications. Using this system, a new user of an app who may not be familiar with the program’s functions may be presented with commands frequently used by others.


IBM Innovations for Accessibility Technologies

We were intrigued to notice a couple of patents recently issued by the USPTO to IBM for the protection of computer accessibility technologies for users with sensory impairments. Accessibility features for a single desktop environment which is sent to multiple displays is the focus of U.S. Patent No. 8839105, which is titled Multi-Display System and Method Supporting Differing Accessibility Feature Selection. The patent protects a computer-performed method of providing program output with selectable accessibility features based on various sets of accessibility settings. This innovation for multi-monitor operations enables larger fonts, anti-colorblind color schemes and other accessibility functions to be portrayed on the screen where they are needed, and not applied to all displays during a multi-monitor operation.

A technology for aiding those with hearing or sight impairments to better understand specific graphics appearing within a video feed is protected for IBM through U.S. Patent No. 8839086, simply titled Verbal Description. The broadcast method described by the patent creates verbal descriptions for graphics within video data by adding audio or textual descriptions which is synchronized with the video. The technology is designed to automatically apply descriptions to broadcast video data which is optimized for hearing impaired or visually impaired audiences.



Tapping the Power of Social Networks 

The proliferation of social networks on the Internet has opened the door to a range of unique ways of reaching computer users and using data collected from their online activities. Big data companies like IBM are always interested in increasing their patent holdings for social network-related technologies, and a couple of recently issued USPTO patents confirm IBM’s continuing research and development activity in this field.

Enhanced methods of determining a social network user’s actual interests based upon relationships with the contacts in their social network are discussed within U.S. Patent No. 8838688, entitled Inferring User Interests Using Social Network Correlation and Attribute Correlation. The protected method of inferring user attributes is enabled to infer user interests based on attributes from both direct and indirect neighbors on a social network. The invention also includes method for obtaining feedback from users and their social neighbors to determine whether there are any improvements that can be made regarding the inference.

From U.S. Patent No. 8838688, entitled “Inferring User Interests Using Social Network Correlation and Attribute Correlation.”

Methods of using social network data to serve as a threshold for access control decisions are disclosed and protected by U.S. Patent No. 8838646, which is titled Using Social Networking Thresholds in Access Control Decisions. This patent protects a system designed to designate access levels for the sharing of content through online channels, such as a blog. The method allows for those users who may not have been extended access rights through the blog to submit content if their social network statistics, which includes their contacts, satisfies a threshold setting. This system also analyzes social network statistics of a content poster to identify and thwart spammers.


Interactive Systems for Robust Multimedia Content 

From U.S. Patent No. 8839283, entitled “Blocking Television Commercials and Providing an Archive Interrogation Program.”

Finally, we’ll close this edition of the Companies We Follow series with a look at some recently issued IBM patents protecting novel technologies for interacting with broadcast and Internet browser content. The selective blocking of unwanted advertising content from television channels is a service protected for IBM through the issuance of U.S. Patent No. 8839283, entitled Blocking Television Commercials and Providing an Archive Interrogation Program. The patent describes method of blocking television commercials from a channel rendering by recognizing certain signature features of a commercial and tuning to a second television channel to avoid the content. The invention also contains an archive for storing blocked commercial content. We also noticed a method for managing the retrieval of dynamic content located within a browser, which is protected by U.S. Patent No. 8839096, issued under the title Management of Rotating Browser Content. The computer method system protected by this patent is designed to maximize the effectiveness of rotating content displays on a web page to maximize the amount of information communicated. The technology includes dynamic functions for displaying the rotating content in an independent display which is responsive to user interactions with the rotating content.


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