Monday, March 15, 2010

Advertising Image v. Multimedia Object REDUX

Last July, Arleen wrote a post Advertising Image v. Multimedia Object about ad images v. multimedia images in movies. Would the classifications applied by USPTO to the two patent applications she cited change in light of the recent changes to the advertising section of the class 705 schedule?

The first of these applications is 10/112,519 -- Method and System for Providing Intelligent Advertisement Placement in a Motion Picture. As described in the Abstract, the invention provides for "intelligently embedding advertisements into motion picture content . . . [by] receiving personalized data and the identity of a motion picture from a user over a computer network; selecting an advertisement image having attributes that approximately match the personalized data; editing the motion picture to include the selected advertisement image; and transmitting the edited motion picture to the user over the computer network for viewing." Note that the three primary and cross-reference classifications applied by USPTO to this application all lie within class 725, Interactive Video Distribution Systems.

Claim 1 states: "A method for providing intelligent advertisement placement in a motion picture, comprising: retrieving personalized data associated with a viewer; comparing the personalized data with a plurality of attributes, each attribute associated with an advertisement image, to determine an attribute that is most consistent with the personalized data; retrieving an advertisement image associated with the attribute that is most consistent with the personalized data; and imposing the retrieved advertisement image on a sequence of image frames of a motion picture."

The first three aspects of this claim ("retrieving personalized data . . .; comparing . . . data with . . . attributes . . .; retrieving an advertisement image . . .") are captured by 705/14.66, Based on user profile or attribute. This subclass, indented under 705/14.49 Targeted advertisement, requires subject matter in which "a set of data or a characteristic of an individual is used to increase interest in a promotion." One might be tempted to proceed to the next indented subclass, 705/14.67 Personalized advertisement, however, the claimed subject matter does not meet the defined requirement for "at least one personal characteristic . . . of an individual [being] added to a promotion." The final aspect of claim 1 ("imposing the retrieved advertisement on a sequence of image frames . . .") is classified as 725/34, Specific to individual user or household.

Claim 1 should be classified as 705/14.66, using the USPTO's classification rule that subject matter is classified at the highest, most indented subclass which captures it. A cross-reference classification to 725/34 would also be appropriate.

Claims 2-11, which depend on claim 1, add more detail but they do not change the two classifications just noted. Of interest is claim 6 which includes ". . . generating attributes based on demographic information selected from a group including age, gender, income, occupation, recreational interest, and geographic information." We referred above to 705/14.67, which includes specific personal characteristics such as age or address. We might be tempted to apply that classification to claim 6, but, again, the definition requires the characteristic being "added to a promotion", for example "Greetings on your 32nd Birthday, Dave, we have a gift for you . . .". This step is not claimed, and we therefore can't apply that classification here.

The remaining claim arrays in this application (claims 12-18, 19-27, 28-32, 33, and 34) provide additional detail, and allowed USPTO to add the other class 725 cross-references (725/35, 725/42), but they do not change the targeted advertising classificaton of 705/14.66.

The second application Arleen discussed last July is 11/486,683 -- System for Creating Dynamically Personalized Media. From the abstract we can immediately see that advertising ("product placements", "enables advertisers to precisely control product placement on a customized basis") in multi-media programs is the subject of the application. However, in reviewing the claims, which are the basis for classification, it is not until we reach the third claim set (independent claim 15 and its dependent claims 16-21) that it is clear that ad placement is being claimed. Arleen alluded to the somewhat unclear writing and vocabulary used in this application. (Editorial aside -- it is to inventors' and application writers' advantage to write clearly using terms appropriate and readily understandable to one skilled in the art they are discussing. This will help ensure correct classification, greater accuracy of examination in the context of the art actually being claimed, and a quicker, and therefore less costly, examination process.)

Take a look at this application in the USPTO's Patent Application Full Text and Image Database. The classifications provided for the U.S. Current Class field are 705/14.61 (the primary classification is in bold) and 705/14.67. This indicates that the application was re-classified following its original publication (primary classification at that time was 705/14).

Claims 15-20 would be classified in 705/14.49, Targeted advertisement. Claim 21 adds detail, ". . . the time in the master program where a product appears . . . and how long a product is enabled" which requires classification in indented subclass 705/14.61, Based upon schedule. This subclass requires "the specific time or day that a promotion is going to be available or exposed to the public." Because this subclass is the most indented, highest in the subclass array, it becomes the primary classification.

The other classification listed on this application is 705/14.67, Personalized advertisement, which requires "at least one personal characteristic (e.g., name, birthday, age, phone number, or address, etc.,) of an individual [be] added to a promotion." Where does this classification arise from? According to the rules of classification, it cannot be a mandatory classification, as it is lower in the same subclass array than the primary (705/14.61). It must therefore be a cross-reference classification, but what claim language leads to it? A very careful reading of the claims leads to the conclusion that there is no claim language supporting this classification. However, look at the "Brief Summary of the Invention" section, paragraph 0014, on the USPTO Full Text Database page. The first sentence states "In addition, by collecting data on recipient viewing habits and analyzing that data in light of other recipient account information (from other databases), the multi-media object management system is able to intelligently select and display products or services to a recipient who is truly interested in purchasing these displayed products or services." This would meet the definition for a personalized ad, and it seems likely that this is a possible source for this classification.

There are several take-away lessons here. First, and to re-emphasize, clear writing and accurate, art-appropriate terminology, is to the applicants' distinct advantage. Over the short-term, this can help provide a quicker, more accurate, and less costly examination process. Over the long-term, assuming a patent is granted, clear accurately written patents can help ensure protection against infringement or licensing lawsuits by increasing the likelihood that they are examined against the correct art. Second, although Google Patents is a useful search tool, the classifications it shows are not updated to reflect class schedule and definiton changes, and subsequent reclassification of patents and applications by USPTO in resposne to those changes. Inventors and assignees should avail themselves of a wide range of tools to increase the accuracy of their research.

Until next time, Mike

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