back to article Google now owns location advertising

Google has been awarded a patent on advertisements targeted by location, which bodes badly for any competitor without its own patent stack. The patent, which was filed in 2004 and awarded last week (and spotted by Venture Beat), covers "determining and/or using location information in an ad system". It seems pretty …


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  1. Sodabread

    Forgive me if I'm wrong...

    but doesn't this seem to be blatantly anti-competitive? I didn't read the patent (don't have time for patent speak), but in order to get local customers, companies must now advertise w/ Google or just luck out that another online agency happens to show their ad to someone who lives close?

  2. The BigYin

    A few things

    1) This is obvious, no?

    2) Surely their is prior art? e.g. A mobile phone (it's a computer) and it knows its location and it "advertises" a new provider when you leave your normal region.

    3) Who sees ads these days anyway? NoScript, AdBlock and GreaseMonkey squish them all. hell, you don't even need to see ads on TV with the likes of MythTV.

    Given 1 and 2, why the hell did the USPO allow a patent?

    Oh, wait. It's the USPO!

  3. Jon Double Nice

    But shirley there is prior art

    In the form of posters? Location based advertising on the basis of your location?

  4. Is it me?


    Is this obvious, too damn right it is, Marketing and Emergency Services have been using this type of technology for years. Its standard GIS requirements to do any of the following, tell me all the x within a distance of y of z and do something, tell me all the x with y minutes of z and do something, tell me all the x within y minutes of z corridor and do something.

    So that might be

    Tell me all the properties burgled within 5 minutes of the M1 and display a house icon coloured to represent the type of theft where a red ford Cortina has been registered by an ANPR camera within 1 hour of the burglary.

    Tell me the ambulance that is within 5 minutes of this location and connect me to them via airwave.

    Send a letter with some vouchers to every address with an active club card and a spend of over £100 per week within 30 minutes of this Tescos.

    All of the above are common GIS queries that are regularly used by a wide variety of organisations across the world. So Google, what's so neat about your idea then?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    but was it obvious

    But was it obvious back in 2003 when this patent was filed.

    It's all very well in 2010 saying it's obvious and it's prior art as we are all used to this type of thing now, but in 2003 we didn't really see much of this, if at all?

    So when we go back to 2003 actually is there any prior art?

    1. Parsifal

      It may not have been then

      But, the market has evolved, surely the USPO should take into account current trends and use their judgment as to whether it makes sense to approve the patent now.

      Not to mention being able to patent flimsy ideas that have little substance to them is completely wrong, the whole process for approving patents like this is totally broken, This patent is so vague it is obviously meant to prevent competition.

      Google 'Do No Evil' is obviously not as altruistic as they claim to be.

  6. dreadful scathe


    patents = stupid

    US patents in particular it seems what the rest of the world needs to do is make a point of completely ignoring such silly patents.This one is particularly obvious , if you want to advertise a local service, you are unlikely to target someone who lives in another country, hey - local ads for local people? what an original idea (<- sarcasm)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Prior Art ?

    Well there was certainly advertising by bluetooth around then. i.e. walk past a shop and (in an advertisers dream world) you receive offers.

    Also mobile companies asking you to use their roaming services when you touch down in another country.

    None of these examples would seem to be as conclusive as google's - but it's quite scary that we have to pre-empt the natural evolution of technology in order to carry out a patent land grab.

    Thank fuck the lawyers etc weren't around in the early internet days.

  8. Richard Jones 1

    Location Specific Actions

    Back in the 1990s and probably before that, telephone callers were being routed on the basis of caller location, if that is not an example of prior art what is?

    Local newspapers, stuff stuck through letter boxes is delivered on an area specific basis, posters as already noted, even including those famous entries in telephone boxes, surely they are the ultimate location specific advertisements?

  9. Richard Jones 1

    A Further Thought on the absurd

    Here are a few other location specific thoughts, let us see, you call up and you have an emergency, so you need an, ambulance, or police, or doctor, or plumber, or breakdown crew, or even a pizza. Better call someone from the other side of the globe, oops must have been thinking about the way that British banks work or should you get someone who can actually arrive with you before you die of an emergency or hunger.

    "What? You cannot send me local assistance because of Google's patent. Your telling me that the British bankers got it right the ambulance/pizza/etc. must come from Bombay/Mexico/The Philippines, etc."

    Someone is having a laugh.

    Just when did we introduce 999 calling to get local services from one national number?

  10. Basic

    I've been doing this...

    I've been doing this based on the IP of visitors to my sites since ~2000 - And I was by no means cutting-edge... There must be mountains of prior art

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Its been done.

    A billboard only shows its ad to the people who are in the correct location.(in front of it)

  12. Dino Saur

    Well, that's not news

    Lots of people have patented the obvious in the US.

    But for the record, we can trace the idea of location-based advertising back at least to 2001.

    Here's one paper from Helsinki University of Technology:

    "Location-aware services are "push" services where the user’s position or proximity to another object triggers some event or defines some condition. One example of location-aware services is location-based marketing, where for example advertisement is send to the terminals approaching the restaurant."

    Note that this was published in conference, so is public domain.

    I'm sure that anyone with an interest can just use this paper as a starting point to dig out a whole host of published papers on the topic (just search for the paper title or authors and check where it is cited).

    The key points of the patent (in short):

    "the method comprising: a) accepting geolocation information associated with the request; b) comparing, the accepted geolocation with geolocation targeting information associated with the ad; c) determining the relevancy of the ad; d) controlling the serving of the ad using the determined relevancy of the ad; e) determining whether the ad has geolocation price corresponding to the geolocation; and f) if the ad has geolocation price information, determining a score using at least the geolocation price information, otherwise determining the score using at least general price information of the ad."

    Everything from a to d is obvious location-based-services. The only inventive step I could imagine here is using the price info (how much is paid to Google) to select the ad, but that is a stretch. If you do not use price as a criteria e.g. use the priority assigned by the advertisers to a geographic area, the patent does not affect your solution. (The fact that you have 100000 priority levels and you may or may not charge the advertiser by priority is irrelevant).

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  14. Rather Notsay

    Prior Art

    Use Case 3: Dublin describes the variable pricing aspect and this artefact is dated before the patent application.

  15. Phil A

    Definitely prior art

    The ill fated Gizmondo ( had location based advertising as one of its key selling points when it was launched in 2005 and had been in development and touted around the industry for some years before then. The Gizmondo forum was certainly open for business in 2004.

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