How Broad Is Google's Location Patent?

VentureBeat surfaced a patent that Google was awarded last week: "Determining and/or using location information in an ad system." The original application was filed in early 2004. The patent appears to cover using location as a primary factor in determining the relevancy of advertising served.

It's not specific to the PC or mobile and would presumably cover both areas. My non-technical reading of the patent suggests that this covers ranking ads based on the location of the user and/or proximity of the user to the desired object/site/product. 

Here's some of the mind-numbing discussion in the application itself:

Different geolocation information may have different scope, and some geolocation information may contain other geolocation information. Generally, for purposes of determining ad relevancy, a match of more specific geolocation information (e.g., town) may be weighted more heavily than a match of less specific geolocation information (e.g., country). Generally, for purposes of ad scoring, the most specific geolocation price and/or performance information that matches will be used. That is, if an ad has price and performance information for both San Diego and California, if the request geolocation information indicates an end user in San Diego, the San Diego price and performance information will be used. If on the other hand, the request geolocation information indicates an end user in Sacramento, the California price and performance information will be used. If the request geolocation information indicates an end user in Omaha, Nebr., neither will be used.

There are many different ways to score ads. Some examples include (a) using a distance between a presence of the advertiser and the end user, (b) using a local availability of an item sought by the end user, (c) using an advertiser attributes (e.g. a location of the advertiser's closest retail outlet), etc. Ads can be ordered and/or priced using language criteria (e.g., query/display language, information derived about user or advertiser's language such as location of user in Japantown).

Although some examples above used geolocation information as a current location of the user, the geolocation information may be a location that the user is interested in. For example, if a search query includes a zip code, it may be inferred that the user is interested in a location defined by the zip code, or located within in the zip code. If the search query includes a city name, region name, and/or a state name, it may be inferred that the user is interested in a location defined by such a name(s). Thus, for example, a user may be interested in an area which may be the same as, or different from, the current area of the user. The targeting, scoring, content, and/or performance tracking of ads may be affected using a location of interest. 

There are a number of location-oriented patents that have been awarded online for consumer search and in mobile. Companies such as Microsoft, Geomas (patent troll), Local.com and JumpTap, among a couple others, all hold local or local-mobile patents of one sort or another. One day some of these folks will be compelled to duke it out in court to determine whose patents trump the others. 

This one is quite broad however.