Priceline.com is a website that facilitates consumer purchases of travel plans and vacation packages, including airline tickets and hotel stays. After the dot-com bubble popped on Wall Street in 2000, causing Priceline to lose 99 percent of its value over an 18 month span, the Internet company has battled back to become the strongest selling stock on the S&P 500 with a market cap of about $66.8 billion as of this writing. In early August, Priceline released its earnings report for 2015’s second quarter, posting an 11 percent profit increase over 2014’s second quarter on the force of good hotel night reservations and car rentals at the start of the summer season.
Priceline.com is wholly owned by The Priceline Group (NASDAQ:PCLN) of Norwalk, CT, which possesses a really interesting portfolio of entertainment service operations, mostly for the facilitation of consumer purchases of entertainment services. The Priceline Group owns online booking website Booking.com, which will soon be rolling out Airbnb-style homestay reservations; travel search engine Kayak, which Priceline agreed to purchase in November 2012 for $1.8 billion; and online restaurant reservation service OpenTable, which recently released a survey of users, 76 percent of whom thought that was room for more inclusion of OpenTable and related technologies at limited service restaurants.
In total, the holdings of the Priceline Group own an intellectual property portfolio that claims 71 patents issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, as well as 68 patent applications filed with the PTO. As the text cluster created by Innography’s IP portfolio analysis tools can show us, much of the company’s research and development has focused on conditional purchase offer (CPO) technologies and travel searches.
Priceline’s Issued Patents: From Better Flight Searches to Mobile Payments at Restaurants
A number of the patents recently issued to Priceline Group companies protect technologies that make it easier to find the travel accommodations people need to enjoy their vacations or pursue their business needs. The quicker and easier those services are for consumers to use, the more value that these services will bring to Priceline.
More accurate search engine results for engines that have to navigate massive datasets to return suggestions to a user is the focus of U.S. Patent No. 8972434, entitled Multi-Phase Search and Presentation for Vertical Search Websites. This patent, assigned to Kayak, discloses a computer program product storing code executable to operate a travel reservation search engine with a query interface module to receive a user search input with a constraint, a constraint evaluation module that can generate queries configured to obtain fewer search results or achieve a quicker response time, and a website query module that executes the multiple queries. This technology was developed in order to reduce the delay that a search engine user would often experience when waiting for the most relevant results from a vertical search engine that queries many other websites. Kayak also developed the flight information retrieval innovation reflected within U.S. Patent No. 8874492, which is titled Flight Caching Methods and Apparatus. The method claimed here involves generating a flight information cache with a plurality of flight solutions, applying a machine learning model for classifying the fidelity of a flight solution, applying a classification to that flight solution and performing an action based on the classified plurality of flight solutions. This invention seeks to optimize which flight information is cached in order to reduce time and cost burdens experienced when trying to process a search query for flight information. More collaborative travel search engine functions are at the center of U.S. Patent No. 8719251, entitled Sharing and Collaboration of Search Results in a Travel Engine and also assigned to Kayak. The method for sharing search results among users disclosed here involves querying information sources based on a received search request from a first user, maintaining the set of search results in a first user separate session state, providing a set of search results for display on a first user’s client device, creating a second user separate session state that includes the set of search results, providing that set of search results in accordance with its separate session state for display on a second user’s client device and enabling a process of modifying separate session states on either client device. This technology is intended to benefit groups of people, from couples to business teams, who are trying to make travel plans together.
Priceline has developed a technology designed to help those who may need to make lodging plans while traveling which is protected by U.S. Patent No. 8868343, which is titled Locating Place of Lodging Along a Route. It claims a computer-implemented method of determining a starting point and a destination point, determining a route of a journey by a mode of transportation between the points, selecting a plurality of search points along the route, performing point searches for places of lodging, identifying two or more places of lodging located along the route, selecting a search result point which has achieved a threshold for a certain number of lodging places and displaying the search result information associated with the route. The interface would also display price level and other information that can help a user make a better lodging choice while in transit.
Online restaurant reservations made through OpenTable are described within U.S. Patent No. 8856117, titled System and Method of Accelerating Response Time to Inquiries Regarding Inventory Information in a Network. The system for providing availability information protected here includes web servers that receive requests for restaurant table availability and a yes/no change in inventory server that stores change in inventory information regarding inventory at specific locations. This “yes/no” system for identifying that a table has been reserved is designed to improve online messaging efficiency, thereby increasing overall online reservation searching efficiency. OpenTable has also produced a technology that is meant to streamline the process of paying for a meal. U.S. Patent No. 8949142, which is titled Mobile Payments Integrated With a Booking System, claims a data processing method of associating a reservation record with a location identifier at a merchant booking computer, obtaining a location identifier and transaction ticket data, receiving at a mobile computing device a request to pay an amount of the transaction using the ticket data and requesting a payment gateway computer to initiate a payment transaction. This invention will allow those using OpenTable to make a reservation at a restaurant to pay for their meals directly through an OpenTable app on a mobile device.
Patent Applications of Note: More Group Outing Tech and Presenting More Profitable Search Results
CPO management systems, in which CPOs are received from potential travel customers and those CPOs are checked against a number of rules designed by airlines selling those seats, are the foundation of much of Priceline’s business. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140279172, filed under the title Conditional Purchase Offer Management System, claims a method of processing airline ticket sales by receiving a purchase offer for travel which includes price from a customer, identifying restricting rules from a plurality of sellers of airline tickets and comparing the purchase offer to the rules to determine if any of the airline ticket sellers will accept the CPO. This innovation helps Priceline leverage its customer base for selling excess airline capacity in a way which airline providers are able to profit. Encouraging the sale of available hotel rooms, flight tickets and car rentals is the focal point of Kayak’s U.S. Patent Application No. 20140136316, entitled Individualized Marketing to Improve Capacity Utilization. The method for executing marketing campaigns claimed here involves receiving information for a campaign associated with a supplier and including information about an item promotion, receiving forecast data for a supplier based on future availability of items and automatically modifying the execution of the marketing campaign based on the forecast data. This technology is intended to better identify consumption patterns before putting together marketing communication.
Search engine results designed to make sure that the travel choices you select are the most profitable ones for Kayak to offer are the result of the technology that would be protected by U.S. Patent Application No. 20150199621, titled Profitability Based Ranking of Search Results for Lodging Reservations. It discloses a method of identifying a plurality of travel results in response to a search query associated with a travel reservation, assigning a measure of profitability to various travel results and displaying the travel results with preference given based on the measure of profitability. This system gives Kayak a tool for presenting the travel options which are the most remunerative to the company after a customer has already set filter levels for price and more.
Collaborative systems for group entertainment were outlined in a few other patent applications that caught our attention today. Showing up in Priceline’s IP portfolio is U.S. Patent Application No. 20140229854, filed under the title Shareable Favorites Sets. The patent application would protect a method of displaying a graphical user interface with a plurality of item summary titles and a set of favorites buckets, receiving an input specifying the addition of one item to a set of favorite buckets, storing data identifying the item, receiving another input specifying the sharing of the set of favorites buckets and automatically creating an electronic mail message with hyperlinks that identify an online description of items from the favorite buckets. The technology is intended to improve the process of sharing favorites lists on mobile touchscreen devices. This patent application was first filed by two inventors, John Caine of Fairfield, CT, and Jonathan Taylor of Ridgefield, CT, in February 2013 before its assignment was legally changed to Priceline that same month. Better systems for recommending entertainment options to a group of people are discussed in U.S. Patent Application No. 20140365313, titled Providing Personalized Recommendations Relating to Group Actions. The computer-implemented method disclosed here involves determining information related to each of a plurality of individuals, determining a group action recommendation and causing presentation of the group action recommendation at a computing device of a particular individual in the group. This OpenTable group recommendation system would be helpful to friends who want to try a restaurant by pointing out locations that their other friends have enjoyed.
An invention for the collection of consumer data to develop better marketing operations has been developed by OpenTable, as is evidenced by U.S. Patent Application No. 20150046199, entitled Computer Based Guest Monitoring and Identification System and Method. The system for identifying a guest that would be protected utilizes an input interface that receives data identifying a guest from a device, a processor that determines whether the guest is found in a database and indicates the name and service profile of a guest if that guest is in the database. This system would help restaurants better develop loyalty programs by automatically identifying if a person is a VIP customer and quickly uploading that customer’s VIP service profile.
Finally, we were intrigued by an e-commerce tool developed to better suggest recommendations without any input from a user, outlined within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140258270, which is titled Context-Based Queryless Presentation of Recommendations. It discloses a data processing method of determining which of a plurality of context sets to consider as relevant as represented by stored data, generating a query based on the stored data and presenting results of the generated query without receiving an explicit query from a computing device. This system uses past purchase data, time of day, weather, a device’s current location and other data to generate relevant recommendations. This patent application was first filed in March 2014 and is assigned to Ness Computing even though OpenTable, prior to become a Priceline property, bought Ness Computing the prior month.