Microsoft Wants To Own Relerank

    March 2, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

A trademark filing by an attorney on behalf of Microsoft for ownership of the term “relerank,” a combination of relevancy and rank.

An opening salvo in Microsoft’s bid to unseat Google as the top search engine may have been fired in mid-February. The trademark filing came to broader public attention via an entry by blogger Thomas Hawk.

In the trademark filing dated February 15th, Microsoft has plunked down $325 for a single international class as noted in the filing:

International Class 009: computer software for organizing, displaying and managing search results from computer search engine software

Hawk speculated in his post it could have something to do with erstwhile Microsoft acquisition target Claria, which owns a search product called RelevancyRank. That product is described as one that “evaluates what searchers do once they see the links displayed.”

If the technology were that impressive, Microsoft would have proceeded with its purchase of Claria last year, and disregarded criticism of the deal with the company once best known for its Gator adware history.

The filing sounds more like Microsoft indulging in some parallel development. Perhaps they have quietly licensed RelevancyRank and asked Claria to suppress it until this summer. That doesn’t seem to fit Microsoft’s normal modus operandi of either building it or buying it.

Let’s speculate a bit further. IBM’s UIMA technology became openly available last summer, not long after Microsoft decided to back away from the Claria deal publicly.

While the company reconsidered the deal, an engineer may have been tracking the project and alerted the higher-ups that maybe they could use UIMA to accomplish what Claria could deliver, minus the $500 million price tag.

Instead of paying $500 million, they pay $325 to trademark a similar phrase and assign some engineers to get to work on integrating UIMA and MSN Search. The project proves so successful internally that Microsoft Europe president Neil Holloway can’t help but brag about knocking Google off the search mountain.

How is that for a hypothesis?

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.