U.S. Patent No. 7,680,786
Optimization of targeted advertisements based on user profile information
Assignee: Yahoo! Inc.
Issued: March 16, 20101. A method of targeting based on user information, the method comprising:
identifying a set of keywords associated with content information requested by a user over a network;
retrieving advertising information corresponding to said set of keywords;
retrieving user profile information associated with said user, said user profile information comprising a user matrix, said user matrix comprises, for said set of keywords and said corresponding advertising information, click-through-rates associated with said user and a bid price for said advertising information;
filtering said advertising information to select advertisements based on said bid price for said advertising information and said corresponding click-through-rate associated with said user identified in said user matrix for said set of keywords; and
providing said advertising information selected to be displayed for said user in connection with said content information.
In other words, an advertiser pays more to present its online ad to you when it knows you historically have a higher rate of clicking-through to presented online ads. That, of course, can only happen if somebody is keeping track of your click-through rate. While this may not be so different from other forms of targeted advertising based on user profiles, something about it feels closer to the "evil" end of the Google-motto-scale. (The University of Chicago part of me sees this as a kind of double price discrimination: a) the advertiser willing to pay the most gets the slot; and b) the price is further determined based on traits of the specific users. Of course, the users here are the real "product" being sold to the advertisers, so it's not quite the same. But still interesting.)
From the patent prosecution angle, there are two additional things to note. First, there was no Bilski rejection. Looks to me like the "network" is the only machine-like element explicitly mentioned.
Second, this patent is the first I've seen that went through the First-Action Interview Pilot Program. This program, which expired just last week, was set up for certain art units to allow applicants an opportunity to receive search results and interact with the examiner prior to a first action on the merits. Here's how that played out for Yahoo!:
- 10/30/06 - Yahoo files application
- 6/4/08 - Yahoo enrolls in pilot program
- 9/10/08 - PTO gives a "Preinterview first office action"
- 10/10/08 - Yahoo proposes amended claims
- 11/18/08 - Yahoo and PTO have interview to discuss proposed amendment - no resolution
- 12/9/08 - PTO issues "First Action Interview Office Action" rejecting claims
- 1/9/09 - Yahoo amends claims
- 4/1/09 - PTO issues Non-Final, "first" action on the merits
- 7/7/09 - Yahoo amends
- 10/28/09 - Allowance
By participating in the pilot program, Yahoo got two extra bites at the apple (by proposing amended claims after the "Preinterview" action, and again amending after the "First Action Interview" action), PLUS the interview. And all before a true "first action on the merits." It also appears that the examiner may have accelerated the examination of this application (though this was not an advertised feature of the program).
The pilot was extended once, to 4/1/2010. But there's been nothing about it being extended again. If anyone has seen statistics relating to the program, please feel free to share.