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Google's Secret Patent Portfolio Predicts gPhone

An analysis of Google's worldwide patent portfolio shows the search giant's filings include not only mobile-phone tech, but also video games and TV.

Google isn't merely targeting the mobile phone market with its rumored gPhone. It may be going after video games, TV, and mobile e-commerce too.

Such deftly hedged speculation comes from Evalueserve, a global consulting and research firm, based on what it believes to be concealed competitive intelligence about Google's patent portfolio, never mind that other Google watchers have been sizing up Google based on non-obvious patents for years now.

In a new report obtained by InformationWeek, the firm claims that most of Google's patent portfolio may be missed by simply searching the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office's (USPTO) online database.

Seeking Web 2.0-related patents published during the period January 2001 to May 2007, Evalueserve says that it scoured the Delphion patent database for patents and patent applications filed at the USPTO, the European Patent Office (EPO), the Japanese Patent Office (JPO), and the World-wide Intellectual Property Office (WIPO).

Unsurprisingly, it found that Google, IBM, Microsoft, and Yahoo were the most active filers. Yet Google's patents turned out to be less evident through a USPTO search than the patents of its competitors.

"The search strategy given above concludes that only 13% of Google's total filings are at the USPTO, whereas 78% of its filings are PCT [Patent Cooperation Treaty] applications," the Evalueserve report says. "This result seems to stand out since more than 50% of the filings of Microsoft, IBM and Yahoo are also at the USPTO. However, a closer examination reveals that around 84% of the U.S. patent applications filed by Google in the Web 2.0 space did not have Google's name printed on the published patent application, since this information was not provided to the USPTO at the time of filing."

The firm cites as an example a Feb. 4, 2002, patent by Daly City, Calif.-based inventor Louis Irizarry, "Cellular telephone case," as a patent that lends weight to rumors about a Google phone. The patent does not list Google as the owner, unlike many other Google patents. However, a search of the USPTO's patent assignment database reveals that Google is indeed the owner.

Evalueserve identifies several other non-obvious Google patents that support the notion of a Google phone: U.S. Patent number 6,982,945, "Baseband Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum Transceiver"; U.S. Patent number 6829289, "Application of a Pseudo-randomly Shuffled Hadamard Function in a Wireless CDMA System"; U.S. Patent Application number US 20070067329, "Overloaded Communication Session"; U.S. Patent Application number US20070159522, "Image-based Contextual Advertisement Method and Branded Barcodes"; U.S. Patent Application number US20060004627, "Advertisements for Devices with Call Functionality Such as Mobile Phones"; U.S. Patent Application number US20050185060, "Image Base Inquiry System for Search Engines for Mobile Telephones with Integrated Cameras"; and U.S. Patent Application number US20070066364, "Customized Data Retrieval Applications for Mobile Devices Providing Interpretation of Markup Language Data."

Google didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

While Evalueserve makes a strong case for the value of thorough competitive intelligence, it's likely that Google's competitors, patent filers all, have done their due diligence and are well aware of Google's intellectual property claims, not to mention the interests and expertise of its researchers.

Moreover, asserting that Google may have an interest in video games, TV, and mobile e-commerce is hardly a revelation given that Google purchased an in-game ad company, AdScape, is the proud owner of YouTube, and has been pushing Google Checkout, not to mention mobile ads and assorted mobile services, for a while now.

Google getting into the document shredding business, now that would be a surprise.

Editor's Note: This story was updated Sept. 20 to correct the spelling of Evalueserve.

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