Google “location-based” advertising patent

Another day, another fluster online about a US patent granted to a well-known company.

This time the company is Google and the patent (7,668,832) is directed towards “controlling serving of an ad using its relevancy to a request” using “geolocation information“.

How NOT to interpret a recently granted patent (as demonstrated by most web-related news sites):

  1. Don’t refer to the claims of the patent in the news article, even though these define the scope of legal protection.
  2. Perhaps instead quote a section from the “Field of Invention” or “Background of Invention” sections (these sections respectively locating the patent subject-matter in a technology field and broadly describing what has been before – neither section gets to the heart of the invention).  Quoting from the “Background of Invention” is particularly favoured as this section is typically drafted broadly and typically is of the least relevance to the claimed invention.
  3. If you do locate the claims of the patent, summarise their subject-matter in a single sentence (even though they may in practice comprise several paragraphs of essential features), e.g. “patent on location-based ads” – wherein the independent claims actually require at least: –
  4. A computer-implemented method for controlling serving of an ad using its relevancy to a request, the method comprising: a) accepting, by a computer system including at least one computer, geolocation information associated with the request; b) comparing, by the computer system, the accepted geolocation information associated with the request with geolocation targeting information associated with the ad to generate a comparison result; c) determining, by the computer system, the relevancy of the ad using at least the comparison result; d) controlling, by the computer system, the serving of the ad, for rendering on a client device, using the determined relevancy of the ad; e) determining, by the computer system, whether the ad has geolocation price information corresponding to the geolocation information accepted; and f) if it is determined that the ad has geolocation price information corresponding to the geolocation information accepted, then determining, by the computer system, a score using at least the geolocation price information, otherwise determining, by the computer system, the score using at least general price information of the ad, wherein the act of controlling the serving of the ad further uses the score of the ad, and wherein the geolocation targeting information associated with the ad corresponds to an area defined by at least one geographic reference point.
  5. (In the present case, the latter features concerning a “score” appear to restrict the scope of the patent. This presents the possibility of a design-around.  However, the claims are sufficiently broad to require careful consideration if working in this area.)
  6. Gain lots of comments from Internet users about how “patents destroy creativity” and allow “big corporations to shut-out hard-working all-[insert country] inventors / start-ups” (even though it is nigh-on impossible to obtain a granted patent with a scope as broad as that insinuated in the article and you can equally argue patents allow “hard-working all-[insert country] inventors / start-ups” to compete on an equal footing with “big corporations ).
  7. Ignore all possibility of licensing; even if company X did obtain a broad patent to Y, if you were a small start-up you could still request a reasonable licence from X. Whether they would be willing to grant such a licence is another issue but several countries allow compulsory licensing where a reasonable licence is unobtainable.

One thought on “Google “location-based” advertising patent

  1. It seems it would be difficult to get around the “score” feature. I suppose one possibility would be to charge a flat rate for showing the ads and not have different bids from different advertisers?

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