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Microsoft Seeks Search-Engine Trademark

A Microsoft application filed with the U.S. Patent office seeks to trademark the term "relerank" in reference to software for organizing, displaying, and managing search results.

Prompting speculation among at least one blogger on its future search-engine plans, Microsoft is attempting to trademark the word "Relerank."

A trademark application was filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on February 15 on behalf of Microsoft by Seattle-based intellectual-property attorney William O. Ferron, Jr. According to the filing, which is accessible via a search of the patent-office Web site, Microsoft is looking to trademark "relerank" for use with "computer software for organizing, displaying, and managing search results from computer search engine software."

News of the application first came to light on the technology blog Thomas Hawk's Digital Connection. Hawk speculates that "relerank" is somehow tied into last summer's rumored acquisition talks between Microsoft and adware vendor Claria. Microsoft scotched those reports, and also issued a letter to customers clarifying the way its software dealt with adware such as Claria's.

In his post, Hawk points out that "relerank" is linguistically close to RelevancyRank, a term used by Claria. The adware vendor defines RelevancyRank as "a patent-pending search technology that ranks Web pages in a revolutionary way. It goes beyond analyzing links to pages and hypertext matching, and instead evaluates what searchers do once they see the links displayed."

Hawk writes that RelevancyRank had been expected to launch in the fourth quarter of 2005. Claria's Web site posts a description of RelevancyRank but doesn't indicate that it's available as a product. At posting time, Claria spokeswoman said she would check on its status.

Despite Hawk's speculation to the contrary ("if Claria's search technology really is as good as they claim, it would be easy to see why Microsoft would want this," he wrote), there appears to be no current connection between Microsoft and Claria.

As for MSN, it's currently in third place in the search-engine rankings, after Google and Yahoo. Microsoft declined to comment.

Microsoft in February beefed up its search capabilities when it acquired MotionBridge S.A., a Paris-based provider of search technology geared to mobile devices.

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