blog, innovation, making stuff, web development May 10, 2011 Michael Quoc No comments

Martinis & patents

Although I’m not a big fan of a whole defensive patent game, I understand its a necessary part of business, and after going through several patent applications, I can appreciate the amount of work and analysis that goes into getting a patent submitted and approved. During my time in the Advanced Products Group at Yahoo! (later Brickhouse) I spent most of my time launching new products, and thus had the opportunity to file more than my fair share of patents – of which two have been approved so far (woohoo!)

These two patents were both created during our creation of Yahoo!’s first mobile social networking product, a service called Mix’d which allowed you to plan adhoc group events using SMS text messaging and MMS media messaging (this was back in 2006 – pre-iPhone – my how far we’ve come!). It had some novel features for auto-building a contact list based on the events or groups in which you participate, and allowing temporary groups which were created for a given event to persist across multiple events. One really cool part of Mix’d was that it seamlessly connected a mobile experience (text messaging and MMS media transfers) back to a social web experience so that you had a multimedia log of a given event – which sounds pedestrian today but was rather novel way back in ’06.  Unfortunately the service did not survive the internal gauntlet at Yahoo!, so what we have surviving are some patents (hey, you gotta take what you can get!). The one which have been approved so far in the USPTO are “Employing matching of event characteristics to suggest another characteristic of an event” and “Contextual mobile local search based on social network vitality information.” My favorite part is in that first filing, we used “going out to drink” in most of our use case examples, so the filing language is:

824. Moreover, event A’s name of “Drinking” may match event names 840, 843, and 844: “Drinks” based on string matching or other information retrieval techniques. For example, the string “Drinking” may be canonicalized, capitalized, stemmed, stop word removed, or the like, before matching. “Drinking” may be stemmed to “Drink” and matched with “Drinks” based on a partial string match.

Time to go have a drink!

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