Google Snaps Up Cuil Search Patents

Google has confirmed it has purchased seven pending search patents from defunct challenger Cuil

Google continues to beef up its patent portfolio, after confirming it has purchased 7 search patent applications of Cuil, the failed search startup that set out to defeat the search engine giant when it was launched over three years ago.

Financial terms of the patent purchase were not disclosed.

A Google spokesperson declined to comment on the company’s plans for the 7 patents, which are pending approval by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Search Patents

The patent documents, uncovered by SEO By The Sea patent watcher Bill Slawski in the USPTO assignment database, cover user interface technology and formats for search.

For example, one patent application is for a graphical user interface that includes tabs representative of different classes of search results.

The tabs are rendered in response to the processing of a query. Search results in this UI group content by meaning, “such that a query term with different meanings produces different classes of search results with different meanings,” according to the patent applications.

Another of the patent applications includes a GUI that sports a “scroll area” that shows off search results along with a permanently displayed anchored area.

Yet another pertains to a GUI that includes a document retrieved by processing a query. This GUI also hosts an advertisement, which could surface as text, and image or an icon, that is automatically generated based on the content in the document.

As Slawski noted, the patent applications are not what most people would have expected Google to acquire from Cuil, which offered unique methods of indexing search results.

Cuil was created by former Googler employees Tom Costello and his wife, Anna Patterson, who left Google because they felt limited by the constraints of the company’s traditional link analysis and traffic ranking, which picks the 10 most popular links.

Cuil’s technology analysed the context of each page and the concepts behind each query. It then organised any similar search results into groups and sorts them by category in three columns across the page in magazine-style fashion. The results included thumbnail images.

Google Challenger?

Cuil’s marketing pitch was that it would dethrone Google by indexing three times as many Web page, including some 120 billion Web pages, compared to 40 billion on Google. Cuil also promised to afford users greater privacy than the incumbent by vowing not to  collect IP addresses or search histories.

Yet when the website launched to great fanfare on 28 July, 2008, it crashed repeatedly as millions of people pinged the search engine to run queries on the erstwhile Google-killer.

Clashes among Cuil’s executive team erupted and festered. Cuil shut down in September 2010, with Patterson returning to Google in a research capacity soon after.

Little had been heard of since until Slawski’s scoop.

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