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Yahoo patent application - a 'concept network' and 'superunits'

 7:59 pm on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

This is something to chew on - a Yahoo patent application [appft1.uspto.gov] from April 19, 2005

...a concept network is generated from a set of queries by parsing the queries into units and defining various relationships between the units based in part on patterns of units that appear together in queries...

A computer-implemented method...comprising the acts of:

1...identifying a superunit seed comprising at least one member unit, wherein each member unit is one of the plurality of units of the concept network;

defining a signature for the superunit seed, the signature including one or more signature units, wherein each signature unit has a relationship in the concept network with at least a minimum number of the member units;

expanding the superunit seed by adding one or more new member units from the concept network, wherein each new member unit satisfies a match criterion based on the signature; modifying the signature based on the expanded superunit seed;

repeating the acts of expanding and modifying until a convergence criterion is satisfied, wherein a final superunit and a final signature are formed once the convergence criterion is satisfied;

and storing superunit membership information for each member unit of the final superunit.



 8:25 pm on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

can someone please translate this ;)?


 8:34 pm on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

Here's my take on some of the basics - a concept unit is a group of words that taken together represent just one concept: "graphical user interface" for instance. By monitoring their user queries, this approach will help Yahoo identify a wide ranging group of conceptual units.

Then the other sets of words that appear in many queries along with conceptual units will be grouped into superunits that contain all these larger phrases: graphical user interface designer, graphical user interface usability study, and so on.

I have literally just discovered this patent, an so my studies have just begun. I'll post later if something nifty pops out of the document - but one thing that is very cool is that user data is feeding back into the algorithm.


 8:46 pm on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

I wonder if they will start giving out a patent for common sense soon.


 9:06 pm on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

this isn't quite common sense--perhaps you should read it more closely (assuming you read it at all).


 9:21 pm on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

For those of you who haven't wanted to wade through the gobbldeygook in the first sections of patent applications ... jump down the application to the "Description" section, which tends to be much more readable.


 9:24 pm on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

For my next SEO Sales pitch; I will use:
...a concept network is generated from a set of queries by parsing the queries into units and defining various relationships between the units based in part on patterns of units that appear together in queries...

adding "we are the #1 result of this logic"


 9:32 pm on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

Tiered hierarchies?


 9:33 pm on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

I drilled down into the description and diagrams. This all looks familiar to me, like a roadmap where the street names were changed but the pathways are the same. Sort of invention by neonomenclature, fronting for studiously amorphous details.

Time to re-read a few other patents I'm familiar with. I'll bet I'm not the only one doing a side-by-side.


 9:40 pm on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

that concept network thingy sounds sort of related/similar to the LSI stuff we discussed a while back...


 9:52 pm on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

I was pleasantly surprised by this. All the very technical stuff and math aside, it seems like somebody really went out of the way to make this patent almost understandable. The real-world examples are solid and I don't have to bend my mind to understand them.

Even an eight year was able to grasp the concepts enough to draw all the pretty pictures [aiw2.uspto.gov]. Some proud parents have these hanging on their refrigerator door!

One of the things that stood out for me is that it is not a completely algo-driven system; there's room for quite a bit of real-human involvement:

...the identifiers may also be modified and associated with links manually by a team of one or more index editors.

Examples of external sources include a list of related terms created by an editor or editorial team (e.g., a list of popular singers or a list of auto manufacturers known to the team); an authoritative web site (e.g., a medical reference site that maintains a dictionary or other listing of diseases); or the like.

The best of both worlds?


 10:12 pm on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

I'm no expert but...

"edge weight" is to the shortest path problem [en.wikipedia.org] as

"superunits" are to Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory [en.wikipedia.org] as

"clustering weights" are to neural networks [en.wikipedia.org]


 10:36 pm on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

Yes, BReflection, I also see those parallels. Part of me really wonders about the enforceability of this patent (and Google's recent Patent, too) should the patent be granted. Seems like you'd have to hack into someone's server farm to tell if your patent was being violated. Or maybe the concern is ten years forward when lots of us can afford the kind of power that requires the assets of a big company today.

And then, there's the factor that jimbeetle observed: " somebody really went out of the way to make this patent almost understandable."

I'm beginning to think the Patent Office could be used for a kind of press release - to generate some buzz in the news cycle.

If that truly is the case, I apologize for starting this thread. Of course, given that courts and judges can be a bit weak on their technical savvy, a really clear patent can be an asset if you need to defend your IP at a future court date.


 10:38 pm on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

Damn I was about to patent the superunit concept myself. They beat me to it.

Here is a detailed explanation in plain English for those who didn't get it.

The key is pods. Once you understand pods, you'll understand it all. Using distributed computing, consider all units to be pods. As the code propagates throughout all the pods, it forms a big signature. When you analyze the signature pattern, you are able to form a sophisticated algorithm. It may sound like sophistry but it really works.

By adding the team concept, pods grow by themselves. In a manner similar to that protein folding experiment. It really took off.

Once the pods grow into bigger and bigger units, they converge and become a superunit. If you extrapolate from their patent, you can even posit a superunit of superunits. Like a massive galaxy of galaxies.

The problem is, as you get bigger, gravity begins to play a large role and becomes a bottleneck until it eventually takes over. Then the superunits get smaller. Eventually they will turn into supraunits. But that's beyond the scope of this explanation.

Hope that clears things up a bit.


 12:48 am on Apr 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

I am patenting a new invention:

Super Patent Language Synthesis Processor #Y/G-2005.666

Claim #1 - a computer software program and associated machine process for patenting by which the inventor substantially and repeatedly makes assertions using non-traditional language until such repetition in and of itself becomes traditional and usurps other forms of language used in describing patents, thereby laying claim to all claims asserting right to patent.

Claim #2 - See #1



 1:07 am on Apr 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

I agree that there's lots of potential for parody here -- but there's also lots of potential for understanding how Yahoo search engineers approach creating their product. And that's mostly why I posted this. I like to get traffic from Yahoo, and I think we'll see them growing in importance. They certainly mean a lot if you've launched a new site any you're stuck in the Google litterbox.


 3:48 am on Apr 22, 2005 (gmt 0)


I got your point - but the newbies seem to think you cant read - LOL!


Forget the parody, its all interesting stuff - knowledge is power. I want to know all the angles that could make me rank well in yahoo!


 6:32 am on Apr 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

Patent Season is on!

All webmaster should hire a common patent lawyer to make it understand in easy language.


 6:36 am on Apr 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

those USPTO guys are so overwhelmed with work and out-matched by private lawyers, they grant everything and let the courts handle the rest if someone contests it.


 8:44 am on Apr 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

The short version of the initial once-over glance is that it's a bit of a cross between analyzing link topology and lexical analysis with a dash of something vaguely similar to Bharat's LocalRank concept thrown in for flavoring.


 9:51 am on Apr 22, 2005 (gmt 0)


This is in fact:

- Processing Bot Results and storing them based on a logical concept

- Storing Search Queries and the selected pages by users.

- Taking these results together to refine the logical concept / storage. Building links between nodes.

- Weight (and the weighting is it) the results based on these and other inputs.

And the most interesting thing about that:

I use this technology since months with my new portal system. And the initial concept dates back to 1998.

Cool ha?



 12:06 pm on Apr 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

gosh... This Yahoo piece kind of smells like Google Sets...


 2:01 pm on Apr 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

:) nonenforceable BS

I use boxes to store nuts, botls and screws.
Smaller boxes I use for nuts, larger boxes for bolts.
Sometimes nuts get bigger, and I use a bigger box to store them.
Sometimes I get small screws, and I store them in a smaller box.
I have a tool chest, where I arrange boxes by this algorythm: nuts get stored closer to bolts; boxes with screws get stored on one side of the chest where they are closer to the my workplace where I screw things. Bolts are typically on the other side, but not necessarily.
Nuts, bolts and screws form groups...

K, I can't believe I typed all this. (c)Me 1901. These patents applications smell as rotten as Amazon's "one click" stuff.


 2:15 pm on Apr 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

It's all these patents that make me love my search engine project and open source even more.

The idea you can protect your business by making illegal for others to compete or offer similar services through a patent is basically legalized monopoly status.

Patents don't make sense in IT.


 3:51 pm on Apr 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

The idea you can protect your business by making illegal for others to compete or offer similar services through a patent is basically legalized monopoly status.

That's my fear with software patents in general.

Google patents an algorithm (which may be something obvious, intuitive, already done by others, etc - doesn't matter). Yahoo patents another algorithm (which may be something obvious, intuitive, already done by others, etc - doesn't matter).

Eventually Google sues Yahoo for doing something similar to their algorithm (i.e. making a search engine work correctly). Instead of fighting the patent claim, Yahoo countersues saying Google's using their patented ideas (i.e. making a search engine work correctly). Eventually, they agree to exchange patent rights and both are happy.

Later, Joe Nobody decides to start a new search engine. He gets sued by both Google and Yahoo for trying to make his search engine work correctly. Joes's got no patents to exchange, so he's forced to go back to working at Wal-Mart.

Patents are supposed to promote innovation - not stifle competition. I guess it was obvious to the USPTO that there wasn't enough innovation in software development over the past couple of decades, so they decided to start issuing patents on software.

(Sorry for the babbling ... I'll retire my soapbox now.)

-- Roger


 4:13 pm on Apr 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

I'm beginning to think the Patent Office could be used for a kind of press release - to generate some buzz in the news cycle.

My thoughts are aligning to your thoery.

Not only that, I wonder what G's patent did to the cash flow of Registrars. Their gross average transaction just increased I am willing to bet.


 4:20 pm on Apr 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

I haven't read the patent in detail, but from perusing the various posts here, if in fact the details are accurate, I've come across this system, in one form or another on several sites, for quite some time now.

I too share the reservations of some re: enforceability.

As a case in point, I've wondered for quite some time now on any patents that vivisimo might have. In addition, if they do, how would they ever decide on how to enforce their clustering method when considering the great number of websites that use clustering, as well as the fact that similar clustering methods as theirs have existed for many years prior to vivisimo.

Just food for thought, and I used v as an example only. I have no idea if they have a clustering patent at all.


 8:53 pm on Apr 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

My primary concern with this patent (and others) is that it describes not a mechanism, but an approach.

It's like:

"Our idea is to patent the thought process, because we have had an idea and used the thought process to come up with the idea."

Patent the mechanism, not the concept. Do a good job implementing the mechanism and reap the rewards. Do a poor job and watch your rewards evaporate as someone uses the same approach to come up with a different mechanism that works better than yours.

Burning petroleum for energy is a concept/approach.
The Chevy V-8 is one mechanism to implement that.
The Briggs & Stratton lawn mower motor is another.

Did they/can they patent the concept of burning petroleum, or just their implementation of that concept? Will neural network developers be sued by Y! after the patent is approved and the neural networks start earning some cash for their developers?

There's way too much open-endedness to this patent, including asking the patent office to imagine many potential currently-unidentifiable types of infringements in the undefined-future.

[0179] Thus, although the invention has been described with respect to specific embodiments, it will be appreciated that the invention is intended to cover all modifications and equivalents within the scope of the following claims.

I guess the courts of the future will sort out what qualifies as an "equivalent" or "modification" of this concept.


 3:55 am on Apr 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

Johnny Cochran must have taken up patent law for Yahoo in his final days.

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