July 29, 2005 2:46 PM PDT

Google tries to patent Web syndication ads

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Google is claiming that it has invented a unique way to distribute online advertising via syndicated news feeds--and it wants a patent for the technology.

If granted, the patent would presumably give Google the exclusive rights for "incorporating targeted ads into information in a syndicated, e.g., RSS, presentation format in an automated manner," according to its patent application titled, "Embedding advertisements in syndicated content."

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, a standard format for syndicating content from online news sites, blogs, job boards and other dynamic Web sites. A growing number of people are using RSS-based syndication programs to stay on top of their favorite sites, subscribing to lists of headlines and other fresh content. The trend is attracting venture capital, too.

Google, Yahoo and a number of start-ups are eyeing syndication as a new outlet for delivering online ads. If Google is granted the patent, it could be a big blow to its rivals in the field, said Forrester Research analyst Charlene Li.

"It would really stifle competition," Li said. "It would be a pretty powerful patent to have."

Google employee Nelson Minar filed the application, which is still under review by the U.S. Trade and Patent Office, on Dec. 31, 2003. But word of it surfaced only this week via several blogs, including Search Engine Watch and TechDirt.

Others developing systems for distributing targeted text ads via RSS syndication include Feedster, Kanoodle, Moreover Technologies and Yahoo. Yahoo is still testing its system, while Kanoodle and Moreover launched a service together in February. Microsoft and America Online also are dabbling in syndication technology, but have been unclear about their ad strategies around it.

Google introduced its syndication ad service only recently. It began testing the system in April and started selling ads in May.

The company's patent request specifically covers the delivery of ads using "an automated ad server." The service "is used to provide keyword- or content-based targeted ads," the application states. "The ads are incorporated directly into a syndicated feed, e.g., with individual ads becoming items within a particular channel of the feed."

The application also covers automated billing, and an "automated targeting and insertion process allows ads to be kept current and timely while the original feed may be considerably older."

Because syndication is a relatively new and populated field, Google may find it difficult to prove that no one else came up with the ad technology first, a burden known as "prior art."

"There is a lot of prior art they would have to get around," Forrester's Li said.

Representatives from Google and Yahoo declined to discuss the patent application. Minar did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment, nor did representatives from Feedster, Kanoodle and Moreover.

Syndication via RSS format is still a fairly new concept for most people. Just 5 percent of Internet users in the United States used syndication technologies last year to read news headlines and other content, according to a study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

10 comments

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Say What?
Oh come on Google, next you'll claim a patent on informercials. This is truly ridiculous.
Posted by (274 comments )
Reply Link Flag
heh heh
Next look for Microsoft to patent John Basedow The Fitness Guru.
Posted by R. U. Sirius (745 comments )
Link Flag
Best of Manitoba RSS
Might their patent application impact my RSS feed at <a href="http://www.bestofmanitoba.com/rss.php">http://
www.bestofmanitoba.com/rss.php</a>? There is active marketing
taking place in this feed. Is there a 'Patent Injunction for
Dummies'?
Posted by wiizard (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The patent office would be crazy to allow that...
Ridiculous!!!

Maybe I should patent delivering advertisement while driving in a car too????

I like Google, I think the company is sharp, smart and aggressive. But this decision is insulting to the patent office and to other marketing companies on the internet.

I work for www.PriceComparison.com, I am going to talk to my partners tomorrow to consider applying for a patent to secure the technology of delivery advertisement of comparison shopping over RSS. I am sure my partners are going to laugh and think I am crazy.

Andrew @at@ PriceComparison.com
Posted by PriceComparison.com (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
good example
this is a good example of how certain patents can stifle competition, and capitalism is all about competition (that's what my book says anyway)
Posted by mortis9 (370 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Do No Evil
Better check your rule book Google. This is not nice and I hope if fails.
Posted by Andrew J Glina (1673 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Two reason why they will not get the patent
I doubt Google will be able to get this patent. There are two questions that undermine this patent:

1. What constitutes as "syndicated content" or RSS? Is it any type file, or just RSS files? Is it any type of content, or is it the purpose of the content (syndicate vs. display to user)
2. Is the invention something new, or just a modified existing one. (and all that is changed is that is for syndicated content)

The patent refers to syndicated content most of the time, and at times it refers to it as RSS. However what is an RSS feed? It is just an XML document that lists items and descriptions. It is not very different from HTML, SMIL, ASX, etc. They are all structured documents used to display content to a user or to another machine. Syndication refers to sharing content with other companies, like for example most of the news today are syndicated from Reuters or Associated Press. However, RSS is mainly used today by RSS readers which resides in users computer - not sure that refers to syndication anymore.

As a bout the second point, there have been several products way before 2003 that delivered ads in the same method described in this patent. The only difference is that at the time they were not used for RSS feeds, but for HTML pages or SMIL.

One of these products is Real Server from Real Networks. This product allowed publishers to deliver ads in Real Player since 2000. Real Player uses SMIL(<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.w3.org/AudioVideo/" target="_newWindow">http://www.w3.org/AudioVideo/</a>) to display interactive content to a user, mainly video/audio. It is a sort of enhanced playlist markup language. Real Server allows publishers to host special SMIL files with special tags that specified to real server to insert an ad at that point in the SMIL file. When a user made a request to play the SMIL file, the Real server would contact the adserver(any adserver on the market) specified in the tag or in the configuration of the real server and pass any data to that adserver in the request, which in return would select an ad based on those parameters and serve it back to the Real Server. The ad returned would be a valid SMIL document which than the real server encapsulated in the main SMIL file and serve it to the user requesting it. (<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.service.real.com/help/library/guides/server8/htmfiles/adserve.htm#1066909" target="_newWindow">http://www.service.real.com/help/library/guides/server8/htmfiles/adserve.htm#1066909</a>)

However, Real Networks was not the first to come up with such invention. This invention can be traced back to the old server side include technology most webservers support back. Many adserver solutions on the market have utilized such methods to deliver ads on webpages from back in 1996. The main commercial adservers that are still alive are DART Enterprise (the old Netgravity, DoubleClick purchased in 1999) and 24/7 Real Media. Publishers that would use these product would install the adserver in their datacenters and integrate it with their webservers. When a user makes a request for webpage, the webserver contacts an adserver utilizing some plugin and passed to the adserver any information on the page (specified by the publisher). The adserver would select an ad based on the information and pass to webserver a chunk of HTML representing the ad.
Posted by capola (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Watch out everybody.....
... patent lawyers are a more of a plague than ambulance chasers.
But what's worse is the mental midgets in management who think
that everythng needs to be patented to prove their virility. If this
uncontrolled patent crap continues, soon there will be no patents
at all.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No Way!
If I understand the article correctly Google is asking to monopolize advertising income from a public News broadcasting service? Preposterous! If such a legal precedence where finally allowed the repercussions would be devastating!
Posted by (24 comments )
Reply Link Flag
evil
so now the googlites start to go the way of microsoft. i suppose this is what happens when you hire employess from evil corporations.
Posted by Scott W (419 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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