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Número de publicaciónWO2001071564 A2
Tipo de publicaciónSolicitud
Número de solicitudPCT/US2001/008361
Fecha de publicación27 Sep 2001
Fecha de presentación15 Mar 2001
Fecha de prioridad21 Mar 2000
También publicado comoWO2001071564A3
Número de publicaciónPCT/2001/8361, PCT/US/1/008361, PCT/US/1/08361, PCT/US/2001/008361, PCT/US/2001/08361, PCT/US1/008361, PCT/US1/08361, PCT/US1008361, PCT/US108361, PCT/US2001/008361, PCT/US2001/08361, PCT/US2001008361, PCT/US200108361, WO 0171564 A2, WO 0171564A2, WO 2001/071564 A2, WO 2001071564 A2, WO 2001071564A2, WO-A2-0171564, WO-A2-2001071564, WO0171564 A2, WO0171564A2, WO2001/071564A2, WO2001071564 A2, WO2001071564A2
InventoresAndrew Lawrence Gelfond, Joseph Janos, Michael J. Fitterman
SolicitanteLumapath, Inc.
Exportar citaBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
Enlaces externos:  Patentscope, Espacenet
System for providing information to an interested viewer, and method of use thereof
WO 2001071564 A2
Resumen
A method of and system for displaying over a computer network information relating to a brand of a user's choice in the context of a document the user is viewing. The method associates an indicator representing a brand of goods or services with a database. The indicator is displayed to the user, and changes in a manner that the user can perceive in response to a document being viewed by the user containing at least one character having a predefined relationship with information stored in the database. The user can activate the indicator, causing information selected by the enterprise to be displayed to the user. In other embodiments, the system can include multiple indicators, each associated with a database, and selectable by the user. The user can add additional indicators, and can activate and deactivate indicators. The enterprise can select the material to be displayed to the user. By way of example, the enterprise can design a look and feel, prepare text, prepare content and design a link associated with the indicator. The enterprise can also select the information to be stored the databases.
Reclamaciones  (El texto procesado por OCR puede contener errores)
Claims 1. A method of presenting contextually relevant information to a user comprising, associating a first indicator with a first database, and presenting said first indicator to said user in response to a document being viewed by said user containing at least one pattern, including at least one symbol, and having a predefined relationship with information stored in said first database.
2. A method according to claim 1 , wherein said document is being viewed by said user by way of an Internet browser.
3. A method according to claim 1 , wherein said document is being viewed by said viewer inside an application program.
4. A method according to claim 1 , wherein said document is being viewed by said user by way of an intranet browser.
5. A method according to claim 1, further comprising, presenting a first embodiment of said first indicator to said user, and presenting a second embodiment of said first indicator to said user in response to said document containing said at least one pattern having said predefined relation ship with said information stored in said first database.
6. The method according to claim 1, further comprising, associating said first indicator with a first enteφrise.
7. The method according to claim 6, further comprising enabling said user to select said first indicator for presentation to said user.
8. The method according to claim 6, further comprising, presenting a second embodiment of said first indicator to said user in response to said document containing said at least one pattern having said predefined relationship with said information stored in said first database.
9. The method according to claim 1, further comprising, associating a second indicator with a second database, and presenting said second indicator to said user in response to a document being viewed by said user containing at least one pattern, including at least one symbol, and having a predefined relationship with information stored in said second database.
10. The method according to claim 9, further comprising, enabling said user to select said second indicator for presentation to said user, and presenting a second embodiment of said second indicator to said user in response to said document containing said at least one pattern having said predefined relationship with said information in said second database.
11. The method according to claim 1 , further comprising, comparing at least a portion of said document being viewed with contents of said first database to determine if said predefined relationship is satisfied, and presenting said first indicator to said user in response to an outcome of said comparison.
12 The method according to claim 11, further comprising, comparing at least a portion of said document being viewed with a pattern, including at least one symbol, and contained in said first database to determine if said predefined relationship is satisfied.
13. The method according to claim 11 , further comprising, performing a contextual matching between at least a portion of said document being viewed and said information contained in said first database, to determine if said predefined relationship is satisfied.
14. The method according to claim 6, further comprising, enabling said enteφrise to specify a look and feel for said first indicator.
15. The method according to claim 6, further comprising enabling said enteφrise to specify text to be displayed in said first indicator.
16. The method according to claim 6, further comprising enabling said enteφrise to specify a content of said first indicator.
17. The method according to claim 6, further comprising enabling said enteφrise to specify a dynamic Web program for inclusion in said first indicator.
18. The method according to claim 6, further comprising enabling said enteφrise to specify a link associated with said first indicator, and displaying to said user material selected by said enteφrise, in response to said link being activated by said user.
19. The method according to claim 1, further comprising, displaying a first pop-up display associated with said first indicator, in response to said user configuring said first indicator.
20. The method according to claim 19, further comprising, associating said first indicator with an enteφrise, and enabling said enteφrise to specify a look and feel of said first pop-up display.
21. The method according to claim 19, further comprising, associating said first indicator with an enteφrise, and enabling said enteφrise to specify text for inclusion in said first pop-up display.
22. The method according to claim 19, further comprising, associating said first indicator with an enteφrise, and enabling said enteφrise to specify a content of said first pop-up display.
23. The method according to claim 19, further comprising, associating said first indicator with an enteφrise, and enabling said enteφrise to specify a dynamic Web application program for inclusion in said pop-up display.
24. The method according to claim 19, further comprising, associating said first indicator with an enteφrise, and enabling said enteφrise to specify a hyperlink for inclusion in said pop-up display, said hyperlink when activated displaying for said user material selected by said enteφrise.
25. The method according to claim 19, further comprising, associating said first indicator with an enteφrise, and enabling said enteφrise to specify a plurality of hyperlinks for inclusion in said pop-up display, each of said hyperlinks when activated virtually transports said user to a Web site specified by said enteφrise.
26. The method according to claim 24, wherein in response to being activated, said hyperlink virtually transports said user to a Web site of said enteφrise.
27. The method according to claim 24, wherein in response to being activated, hyperlink virtually transports said user to a Web site specified by said enteφrise.
28. The method according to claim 1, further comprising, associating said first indicator with a plurality of databases, one of said plurality being said first database, and presenting said first indicator to said user in response to said document containing at least one pattern including at least one symbol having a predefined relationship with said information stored in at least one of said plurality of databases.
29. The method according to claim 1, further comprising, associating a second indicator with a second database, and presenting said second indicator to said user in response to said document containing at least one pattern including at least one symbol having a predefined relationship with information stored in said second database.
30. The method according to claim 29, further comprising, enabling said user to select one of said first indicator and said second indicator.
31. The method according to claim 1, further comprising, providing a server computer for providing said user with a description of a relationship between said document being viewed by said user and said information stored in said database in response to said document containing said at least one pattern having said predefined relationship with said information stored in said first database, and providing a client program resident on a user work station for presenting said first indicator to said user.
32. The method according to claim 31 , further comprising, presenting a first embodiment of said first indicator to said user, and presenting a second embodiment of said first indicator to said user in response to said document containing said at least one pattern having said predefined relationship with said information stored in said first database, and enabling said client program to generate said second embodiment of said first indicator by processing said description of said relationship provided by said server computer.
33. The method of claim 31 , further comprising, enabling said server program to generate a pop-up display associated with said first indicator, at least in part by processing said description of said relationship provided by said server computer.
34. The method of claim 31 , further comprising, enabling said server computer to monitor contents of said document over said communication network, and to search said first data base to determine whether said document contains said at least one pattern having said predefined relationship with said information stored in said first database.
35. The method according to claim 1, further comprising, enabling an enteφrise to provide said information stored in said first database.
36. The method according to claim 1, further comprising, providing at least a portion of said first database on a server computer.
37. The method according to claim 1, further comprising, providing at least a portion of said first database at a data storage facility remotely located from said server computer.
38. The method according to claim 1, further comprising, presenting said document being viewed by said user through a network browser.
39. The method according to claim 1, further comprising, enabling an enteφrise to define said predefined relationship between said at least one pattern in said document and said information stored in said first database.
40. The method according to claim 39, further comprising, enabling said enteφrise to define said predefined relationship to be contextual in nature.
41. The method according to claim 1, further comprising, providing a server computer for generating a user interface for presenting said first indicator to said user, and enabling said server computer to provide said user interface to said user over a communication network.
42. The method according to claim 1, further comprising, enabling said server to generate a pop-up display, associated with said first indicator, at said user interface in response to said user configuring said first indicator.
43. The method according to claim 1, further comprising, enabling said user to download said first indicator in response to a single action by said user.
44. The method according to claim 43, wherein said single action is a mouse click.
45. The method according to claim 1, further comprising, associating said first indicator with a first enteφrise, and enabling said user to download a program for generating said first indicator by performing a single action.
46. A method of presenting contextually relevant information to a user, comprising, downloading a program for generating a brand indicator to a client computer in response to a user selecting a pattern displayed in a view screen of said client computer.
47. The method according to claim 6, further comprising, providing said user with an anonymous email address, and enabling said first enteφrise to send email to said anonymous email address.
48. A method of presenting contextually relevant information to a user, comprising, associating an indicator with a database, presenting a first embodiment of said indicator to said user, and presenting a second embodiment of said indicator to said user in response to a document being viewed by said user containing at least one pattern, including at least one symbol, and having a predefined relationship with information stored in said database.
49. A system for presenting contextually relevant information to a user comprising, a first indicator, a server database comprising at least a first database for storing information, a server software module in communication with said server database, said server software module adapted to perform comparisons involving information in said server database, and a client software module in communication with said server software module, said client software module adapted to provide to said server software module information from a document being viewed by said user, and adapted to present said first indicator to said user in response to said document being viewed by said user containing at least one pattern, including at least one symbol, and having a predefined relationship with said information stored in said server database.
50. The system according to claim 49, wherein said client software module is adapted to access said document by way of an Internet browser.
51. The system according to claim 49, wherein said client software module is adapted to access said document by way of an application program.
52. A system according to claim 49, wherein said client software module is adapted to access said document by way of an intranet browser.
53. The system according to claim 49, wherein said first indicator has a first embodiment and a second embodiment, said first embodiment of said first indicator is initially presented to said user, and said second embodiment of said first indicator is presented to said user in response to said document containing said at least one pattern having said predefined relationship with said information stored in said first database.
54. The system according to claim 49, wherein said first indicator is associated with a first enteφrise.
55. The system according to claim 54, wherein said first indicator is adapted to be capable of selection by said user for presentation to said user.
56. The system according to claim 54, wherein said first indicator has a first embodiment and a second embodiment, said first embodiment of said first indicator is initially presented to said user, and said second embodiment of said first indicator is presented to said user in response to said document containing said at least one pattern having said predefined relationship with said information stored in said first database.
57. The system according to claim 49, further comprising, a second indicator associated with a second database, wherein said second indicator is presented to said user in response to a document being viewed by said user containing at least one pattern, including at least one symbol, and having a predefined relationship with information stored in said second database.
58. The system according to claim 57, wherein said second indicator is adapted to be capable of selection by said user for presentation to said user, said second indicator has a first embodiment and a second embodiment, said first embodiment of said second indicator is initially presented to said user, and said second embodiment of said second indicator is presented to said user in response to said document containing said at least one pattern having said predefined relationship with said information in said second database.
59. The system according to claim 49, wherein said first indicator has a first embodiment and a second embodiment, said first embodiment of said first indicator is initially presented to said user, and said client software module is adapted to present said second embodiment of said first indicator to said user in response to an outcome of a comparison of at least a portion of said document being viewed with information stored in said first database to determine if said predefined relationship is satisfied.
60 The system according to claim 59, wherein said information stored in said first database comprises a pattern, including at least one symbol.
61. The system according to claim 59, wherein said server software module is adapted to perform comparisons that involve a contextual matching.
62. The system according to claim 54, wherein said first indicator is adapted to present a look and feel, said look and feel specified by said first enteφrise associated with said first indicator.
63. The system according to claim 54, wherein said first indicator is adapted to present a text, said text specified by said first enteφrise associated with said first indicator.
64. The system according to claim 54, wherein said first indicator is adapted to present a content, said content specified by said first enteφrise associated with said first indicator.
65. The system according to claim 54, wherein said first indicator is adapted to be a container for a dynamic Web program, said dynamic Web program specified by said first enteφrise associated with said first indicator.
66. The system according to claim 54, further comprising, a link associated with said first indicator, and material for display to said user in response to said link being activated by said user, said link and said material specified by said first enteφrise associated with said first indicator.
67. The system according to claim 49, further comprising, a first pop-up window associated with said first indicator, said first pop-up window displayed in response to said user selecting said first indicator.
68. The system according to claim 67, wherein said first indicator is associated with a first enteφrise, and said first pop-up window is adapted to present a look and feel, said look and feel specified by said first enteφrise associated with said first indicator.
69. The system according to claim 67, wherein said first indicator is associated with an enteφrise, and said first pop-up window is adapted to present a text, said text specified by said first enteφrise associated with said first indicator.
70. The system according to claim 67, wherein said first indicator is associated with an enteφrise, and said first pop-up window is adapted to present a content, said content specified by said first enteφrise associated with said first indicator.
71. The system according to claim 67, wherein said first indicator is associated with an enteφrise, and said first pop-up window is adapted to contain a dynamic Web application program, said dynamic Web application program specified by said first enteφrise associated with said first indicator.
72. The system according to claim 67, wherein said first indicator is associated with a first enterprise, said first pop-up window comprises a hyperlink, said hyperlink when activated displaying for said user material selected by said first enteφrise, said hyperlink specified by said first enteφrise.
73. The system according to claim 72, wherein said hyperlink is adapted to connect said client software module to a Web site of said first enteφrise.
74. The system according to claim 72, wherein said hyperlink is adapted to connect said client software module to a Web site specified by said first enteφrise.
75. The system according to claim 67, wherein said first indicator is associated with a first enteφrise, and said first pop-up window comprises a plurality of hyperlinks, each of said plurality of hyperlinks adapted to virtually transport said user to a Web site selected by said first enteφrise.
76. The system according to claim 49, further comprising, a first indicator associated with a plurality of databases, and said first indicator is presented to said user in response to said document containing at least one pattern, including at least one symbol, having a predefined relationship with said information stored in at least one of said plurality of databases.
77. The system according to claim 49, further comprising, a second indicator associated with a second database, and said second indicator is presented to said user in response to said document containing at least one pattern, including at least one symbol, having a predefined relationship with information stored in said second database.
78. The system according to claim 77, wherein said first indicator and said second indicator are adapted to be capable of selection by said user for presentation to said user.
79. The system according to claim 49, wherein said server software module is adapted to provide said client software module with a description of a relationship between said document being viewed by said user and said information stored in said server database in response to said document containing said at least one pattern having said redefined relationship with said information stored in said database, said description to be provided by said client software module to said user.
80. The system according to claim 79, wherein said client software module as adapted to generate said second embodiment of said first indicator by processing said description of said relationship provided by said server software module.
81. The system of claim 79, wherein said client software module is adapted to generate a pop-up window associated with said first indicator by processing said description of said relationship provided by said server software module.
82. The system of claim 79, wherein said server software module is adapted to monitor the contents of said document over said communication network, and to search said first data base to determine whether said document contains said at least one pattern having said predefined relationship with said information stored in said first database.
83. The system according to claim 49, wherein said server software module is adapted to receive from a first enteφrise said information stored in said first database.
84. The system according to claim 49, further comprising a storage medium wherein at least a portion of said first database is stored, said storage medium located at a first location where said server software module operates.
85. The system according to claim 49, further comprising a storage medium wherein at least a portion of said first database is stored, said storage medium located at a second location remote from a first location where said server software module operates.
86. The system according to claim 49, further comprising information stored in said first database, said information including a predefined relationship involving a pattern, including at least one symbol, stored in said first database, said information provided by a first enterprise.
87. The system according to claim 86, wherein said predefined relationship is contextual in nature.
88. The system according to claim 49, wherein said server software module is adapted to generate a user interface for presenting said first indicator to said user, and to provide said user interface to said user over a communication network.
89. The system according to claim 49, wherein said client software module is adapted to generate a pop-up window, associated with said first indicator, at said user interface in response to said user selecting said first indicator.
90. A system for presenting contextually relevant information to a user, comprising, an indicator associated with a database, said indicator having a first embodiment that is initially presented to said user and a second embodiment, and said second embodiment of said second indicator is presented to said user in response to a document being viewed by said user containing at least one pattern, including at least one symbol, and having a predefined relationship with information stored in said database.
Descripción  (El texto procesado por OCR puede contener errores)

SYSTEM FOR PROVIDING INFORMATION TO AN INTERESTED VIEWER, AND METHOD OF USE THEREOF

Field of the Invention

This invention relates generally to methods of and systems for displaying information to a viewer. More particularly, the invention relates to methods of and systems for displaying information relating to a brand chosen by a viewer.

Background of the Invention There are many methods of and systems for displaying branded information related to a product or service. Television viewers, and newspaper and magazine readers, are constantly presented information about branded products and services in advertisements that are controlled by the advertiser and the broadcaster or publisher. The viewer can decide whether to pay attention to an advertisement or to ignore the display, for example by changing television channels or by turning the page of a newspaper or magazine. The viewer has no control over the brand that will be displayed, or over the content that will be presented.

More sophisticated methods of and systems for displaying branded information attempt to match the information displayed to an interest of the viewer. For example, some operators of sites on the World Wide Web (the "Web") attempt to discern a viewer's interest from the overall content of Web pages that the viewer "visits," or from search terms that a viewer enters into a search engine. The operator then displays information to the viewer that has a relationship to such discerned interests, again without any control by the viewer. Once again, the viewer can choose to look or move on, but has no control over the information that may appear. Such methods of displaying information have the disadvantage that the advertiser has no way of knowing if a particular viewer desires to see information relating to the brand. An advertiser can expend considerable funds on such displays with no information about the kind of reception such displays will encounter, let alone an assurance that the viewer in fact has any interest in the display at all.

It is therefore a principal object of the invention to provide a method of displaying information related to an interest of a viewer. Summary of the Invention Briefly, according to one embodiment, the system provides information, defined by an enterprise to a user (or viewer) who has expressed an interest in obtaining information from the enterprise. An enterprise can be understood generally to be any entity, such as a person, a commercial or non-commercial organization, or an association that desires to present material, which advocates for a position on some issue, to users.

In one aspect, the invention features a method of presenting contextually relevant information to a user. The method includes the steps of associating an indicator with an enterprise database, and presenting the indicator to the user in response to a document being viewed by the user containing a pattern, including a symbol, and having a predefined relationship with information stored in the enterprise database.

According to one embodiment, the user can view the document, for example, by way of an Internet browser, inside an application program. In another embodiment, the user can view the document, for example, by way of an intranet browser. According to one feature, the system of the invention initially presents a first embodiment of the indicator to the user, and then presents a second embodiment of the indicator to the user in response to the document being viewed containing at least one pattern having the predefined relationship with the information stored in the enterprise database. According to another feature, the system of the invention associates the indicator with an enterprise, and the user can configure the indicator to be active. In response to the indicator being active, the system can change the appearance of the indicator in response to the occurrence of a match between information in the page that the user is viewing and information in the enterprise database. In a further embodiment, the system of the invention can associate a second indicator with a second enterprise. The second indicator is presented to the user in response to the user signaling interest in the second enterprise. As in the case of the first indicator, the second indicator is configurable by the user, and is presented in a second embodiment to the user in response to the document being viewed containing a pattern having a predefined relationship with the information in a second enterprise database.

According to one feature, the system of the invention compares at least a portion of the document being viewed with the contents of an enterprise database to determine if a predefined relationship exists between the contents of the document being viewed and the contents of the enterprise database, h one embodiment, the document being viewed is compared to a pattern, contained in the enterprise database. The pattern can include at least one symbol. According to a further feature of the invention, the enterprise specifies the look and feel, the text, or the content to be displayed in the indicator. In one embodiment, the enterprise specifies a dynamic Web program to be included in the indicator. Additionally, the enterprise specifies a link associated with the indicator, and specifies material to be displayed to the user in response to an activation of the link.

According to a further feature, the system of the invention displays a pop-up display associated with the indicator to the user in response to the user selecting the indicator. Preferably, the invention associates the pop-up display with an enterprise and the enterprise specifies the look and feel, the text, and/or the content to be displayed in the pop-up display. Optionally, the enterprise specifies a dynamic program to be included in the pop-up display. In some embodiments, the enterprise specifies one or more hyperlinks associated with the pop-up display, and specifies a Web site to be displayed to the user in response to an activation of a hyperlink. The pop-up display typically contains information relating to the goods or services of the enterprise associated with the pop-up display. According to a further embodiment, the system of the invention includes a server computer and software that operates on the server computer for determining whether a predefined relationship exists between information stored in an enterprise database and information contained in a document being viewed by a user. The system of the invention also includes a client program that operates on the user's computer to present the indicator to the user. According to another feature, the client program generates a second embodiment of the indicator in response to the server computer detecting that a relationship exists between information stored in the enterprise database and information contained in the document being viewed by the user. The client program also generates the pop-up display associated with the indicator, at least in part, by processing a description of the relationships provided by the server computer. In one embodiment, enterprises provide information to the server computer for storage in enterprise databases maintained by the server computer.

Other aspects, features, and advantages of the invention will become apparent from the following description and from the claims.

Brief Description of the Drawings The objects and features of the invention can be better understood with reference to the following detailed description and the accompanying drawings, in which: FIG. 1 is a schematic overview of an illustrative embodiment of a system employing features of the invention;

FIG. 2 shows the interactions between and among a viewer computer, an enterprise computer and the host computer according to an illustrative embodiment of the invention; FIG. 3 show an example of the interactions between and among a viewer, an enterprise and the host computer as a function of time according to an illustrative embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 4 is a schematic flow diagram of an illustrative embodiment of the client program executing on a user computer; FIG. 5 is a schematic flow diagram depicting an illustrative interaction between an enterprise and the system of the invention;

FIG. 6 is a schematic flow diagram depicting operation of an illustrative server computer; FIG. 7 shows an illustrative user interface for enabling a user to browse a Web page after having activated an indicator; FIG. 8 shows an illustrative user interface for enabling a user to add a second indicator to an indicator toolbar;

FIG. 9 depicts an illustrative user interface for enabling a user to browse a different Web page that contains content that matches information provided by an enterprise;

FIG. 10 shows an illustrative user interface including a pop-up display that appears in response to of the user selecting an indicator;

FIG. 11 shows an illustrative user interface in which the user selects information contained in the pop-up display; and

FIG. 12 shows an illustrative user interface in which the user has browsed to a different page in response to information provided by the enterprise in the pop-up display of FIGs. 10 and 11.

Description of the Illustrative Embodiment The invention provides a method of and system for displaying information provided by an enterprise to a user who is viewing a document, in response to the user indicating an interest in the enterprise. According to one embodiment of the invention, an enterprise defines the information to be provided to the user. By way of example, employing the system and methods of the invention, the enterprise supplies information to a server computer. The server computer stores the information in an enterprise database logically dedicated to the enterprise. In response to a user indicating an interest in the enterprise and viewing information that includes a match to relevant information stored in the enterprise database, the system of the invention provides the user with access to the relevant information.

FIG. 1 is a schematic overview 100 of an embodiment of a system employing features of the invention. The diagram 100 depicts a computer network 108 that interconnects a server computer 102 to one or more client computers 104a - 104d, and to one or more enterprise computers 106a - 106d. Although the illustrative example of FIG. 1 depicts four client computers 104a - 104d, and four enterprise computers 106a - 106d, any number of client computers and any number of enterprise computers can be employed. Additionally, the network 108 can be any type of communication network, such as a local area network (LAN), a wide area network (WAN), an intranet, or the Internet.

The illustrative client computers 104a - 104d are general purpose computers. However, any of the client computers 104a - 104d can be a desktop personal computer; a one purpose device such as a Web appliance, a set top box; a handheld personal digital assistant (PDA); an embedded computer in a device, such as a cellular telephone; a laptop computer; a workstation; a minicomputer; a server computer; a mainframe computer; a supercomputer; or the like. The client computers 104a -104d each include software comprising a computer program 112a - 112d (generally client software 112) that executes on the client computers 104a - 104d. The client software 112 is recorded on any one of many conventional machine-readable media, such as magnetic, electronic or optical media. The client software 112 can be prerecorded for installation on the viewer computers 104a - 104d, or alternatively can be downloaded from a central repository, such as the server computer 102, or, for instance, the enterprise computer 106. The client software 112 may also be bundled with other software. Preferably, the operator of the system and process of the invention provide the client software 112 for the use of the client. The client software 112 enables some of the functionality of the system of the invention. The operation of the client software 112 will be described in more detail below with respect to FIG. 4.

In one embodiment, the client software 112 is a self-installing executable program designed to integrate with all applications that view information on the client computers 104a - 104d. Microsoft Internet Explorer ™ 4.x/5.x, AOL ™ and Netscape ™ World Wide Web (Web) browsers that operate on computers using the Microsoft Windows ™ operating system and Netscape ™ and AOL ™ browsers that operate on Apple ™ computers are examples of such applications.

The system and method of the invention uses a number of computer language protocols that are in wide use today in communication via the Web. These language protocols include HyperText Markup Language (HTML), Extensible Markup Language (XML), Extensible Stylesheet Language (XSL) and JavaScript.

The client computers 104a - 104d bidirectionally connect, to the network 108. Each client computer 104a - 104d also includes a display that can be used by the user to observe information. Enterprises desiring to advocate for a position connect to the network 108 by way of the enterprise computers 106a - 106d. The position advocated can be, for example, an economic position such as the commercial sale of goods or services, or can be a non-economic position such as a political position, an educational position or an environmental position. As in the case of client computers 104a - 104d, each of the enterprise computers 106a - 106d can be a desktop personal computer, or a computer of a different type, such as a handheld personal digital assistant, an embedded computer in a device such as a cellular telephone, a laptop computer, a workstation, a minicomputer, a server computer, a mainframe computer, a supercomputer, or the like. The enterprise computers 106a - 106d each can include a plurality of such computing equipment. The enterprise computers 106a - 106d include a storage medium on which computer programs and data can be recorded. Each enterprise computer 106a - 106d has a corresponding database 110a - 1 lOd that contains, among other things, information that the enterprise wants to display for users. The enterprise computers 106a - 106d are bidirectionally connected to the computer network 108, and can optionally send information over the computer network 108 in encrypted form, so that a recipient of the information who has the necessary decrypting information can read and understand the contents of the sent information.

As depicted in FIG. 1, the illustrative system of the invention further comprises a server computer system 102. The server computer 102 connects to other computers, such as the client computers 104a - 104d and enterprise computers 106a - 106d via the network 108. Although FIG. 1 depicts a single server computer 102, skilled artisans will appreciate that a plurality of server computers may be employed. The server computer 102 includes a plurality of logically separate enterprise databases 116a - 116d, as well as server software 114. The enterprise databases 116a - 116d store information provided by the enterprises 106a - 106d. Illustratively, the information can include predefined relationships, which the server software 114 employs to detect matches between information being viewed by a user via the client computers 104a - 104d and information stored in the enterprise databases 116a - 116d. The enterprise databases 116a - 116d can also contain information to be provided to users by way of the client computers 104a - 104d in response to the server software 114 detecting such a match. Preferably, if an enterprise computer, such as the computer 106a, submits data from the database 110a to the server computer 102 for storage, the server computer 102 assigns an enterprise database, for example the enterprise database 116a, to store the information, and no other enterprise is permitted access to the information stored in the server database 116a. FIG. 2 depicts the interactions between and among an illustrative client computer 104a, an illustrative enterprise computer 106a, and the server computer 102. The enterprise computer 106a transfers information to the server computer 102 for later display to a user employing the client computer 104a. The server computer 102 stores the transferred information in the enterprise database 116a. In one embodiment, the enterprise computer 106a transfers information from the database 110a to the server computer 102 using XML. Alternatively, the enterprise computer 106a transfers the information in a non-XML format and the server computer 102 converts the information to XML format. The enterprise computer 106a can transfer the information over the network 108, by way of another connection between the computers 106a and 102, or by transmission as data recorded on a machine-readable medium such as a floppy disk or a CD-ROM.

In operation, the illustrative server software 114 compares symbols in the enterprise database 116a against information contained in a page, being viewed by a user at the display screen 202. This matching process can include considering whether one or more symbols, the context of the one or more symbols, information "local" to a particular to a user, custom data defined by the user or by the enterprise, or the Universal Resource Locator (URL) of the page being viewed is related to information stored by the enterprise 106a in the enterprise database 116a. The server software 114 signals the client software 112a whether a match has occurred and transfers the relevant information stored in the enterprise database 116a to the client computer 104a, for example, as an XML file. The server computer 102 may transfer relevant information regardless of whether the server computer 102 detects a match. The client software 112a in turn signals the user that information has been received from the server computer 102. In one illustrative embodiment, the client software 112a generates a display on the display screen 202 of the client computer 104a. The display includes a toolbar 208 comprising a set of indicators 204a - 204d, such as icons or buttons. Each indicator 204a - 204d represents a particular set of information. The information is material that has been strongly associated ("branded") with a particular enterprise, such as a commercial company. According to the illustrative embodiment, initially the indicators are not displayed to the user. When the user desires to be advised of the availability of information related to a particular enterprise, the user configures the tool bar 208 to include the indicator associated with the particular enterprise. Configuring the tool bar 208 to include a particular indicator, such as indicator 204a, signals the server computer 102 that the user desires to be shown information provided by the enterprise, such as enteiprise 106a, associated with the indicator 204a and which relates to the material the user is viewing on the display screen 202. In the illustrative embodiment, the server computer 102 does not perform the previously discussed matching process for an enterprise database 116a- 116d unless the indicator 204a-204d associated with the enterprise database 116a-l 16d is configured to be included in the tool bar 208.

The illustrative embodiment provides a plurality of ways for a user to add a brand indicator 204a - 204d to the toolbar 208. By way of example, an enterprise can place a "special link" in the URL of a page that can be viewed by the user through a browser. If the user wants to obtain a brand indicator, the user performs an action such as highlighting a specified location on the viewed page with a pointing device such as a mouse. The client software 112 checks the URLs of pages that the user browses and compares them to the "special link syntax". The client software 112a adds the indicator to the toolbar 208 if the "special link syntax" is found. If the user does not already have an installed copy of the client software 112a on his or her computer 104a, the illustrative system of the invention prompts the user to obtain and install the client software 112a. This enables the user to add an indicator 204a - 204d, at will, whenever the user wishes to be shown information made available by an associated enterprise 106a - 106d. The user can also delete an indicator from the tool bar 208 or configure an indicator to be inactive. For example, in one embodiment, by using a pointing device such as a "mouse" and by right clicking the "mouse" while selecting the indicator, the user can render the indicator inactive. The user can also download an indicator, such as indicator 204a, by visiting a page or other location on the network 108 associated with an enterprise, such as the enterprise 106a, and activating a feature of the client software 112a that takes enterprise-designated information from the page or the location, and generates the indicator 204a. Information taken from the page can include address information, such as URL information; visual information, such as a graphic, logo; and/or text information. The indicator 204a then resides on the user's computer, and contains information that identifies the enterprise to the user. The indicator 204a also contains the information necessary to identify the enterprise 106a to the server computer 102.

In response to the user configuring the tool bar 208 to include a particular indicator 204a, the client software 112a signals the user of the availability of information provided by the enterprise 106a associated with the indicator 204a by changing the appearance of the indicator 204a. The user indicates a desire to view the available information by selecting the indicator 204a, for example in one embodiment, with a device such as a "mouse". In response to such a selection, the client software 112a displays the available information in a pop-up display 206. The pop-up display 206 can be an interactive control, such as an ActiveX control with dynamic HTML, or the like.

In the illustrative embodiment, the client computers 104a - 104d communicate with the server computer 102 through HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP). Using HTTP, the client software 112a sends information over the computer network 108 to the server computer 102, without the user's intervention, each time the user views a new page. This information includes, among other things, a list of the enterprises for which the user has expressed an interest by configuring the tool bar 208 to include associated indicators 204a - 204d. The information can also include the URL or other location information of the page that the user is viewing, and/or the content of the page being viewed. The information can further include "local" and user- supplied content. If the content of the page is not sent, the server computer 102 can use the URL or location information to obtain a copy of the page being viewed. Optionally, the server computer 102 caches pages users frequently visit. In this way, the illustrative system avoids having to repeatedly transfer the same information from the client computers 104a - 104c to the server computer 102. This approach also enables the server computer 102 to avoid having to repeatedly retrieve the same information from the same URL. According to another feature, the information sent and/or received can also be compressed, making more efficient use of the available bandwidth. The server computer 102 filters the data in a page being viewed based on the information about the user submitted by the client software 112a. More personalization, such as preferences, or other filters, can be added to the protocol. The protocol controlling the client computer 104 - server computer 102 exchange of information uses XML code to define the data to be transmitted in both directions. As XML is an extensible language, the protocol itself and the information it specifies for transfer can be modified to accommodate future requirements, hi other embodiments, other protocols and languages can be used. Maintenance of the software of the illustrative system and method of the invention is performed transparently to the user. In one embodiment, if any of the files used on the client computer 104a, including data files, the executable programs, or file representing downloaded server database contents are modified by the system operator, an updated version number is assigned to the modified program or file. As part of the protocol between the server computer 102 and the client computer 104a, the client computer 104a sends current version information to the server computer 102. If the server computer 102 detects that one or more of the internal data files or code present on client computer 104a is older than the most recent update, the server computer 102 automatically offers information about the new version to the client computer 104a, without user intervention. The client computer 104a can request the new version of the modified software.

In the illustrative embodiment, as the user views a new page, the client software 112a takes the content, links and/or the URL of the current Web site from the page and generates XML code. The client computer sends the XML code that represents the content, links and/or URL of the current Web site of the page, as well as local and/or user-defined content, to the server computer 102 via HTTP. The server computer 102 performs a comparison between information stored in the database 116a corresponding to the enterprise associated with an indicator 204a and the contents of the page that the user is viewing. In response to detecting a match, the server computer 102 responds to the XML information sent by the client computer 104a with information in XML format derived from the information provided by the enterprise and recorded in the server database 116a.

In response to the server computer 102 responding to a match, the client software 112a changes the appearance of the indicator 204a, indicating to the user that the text or other material found within the page has yielded a match to some information relevant to the brand information of the enterprise associated with the indicator 204a. Alternatively, the client software 112a can alter the appearance of the indicator 204a to indicate that there is no match whatsoever between the information in the page being viewed and the information provided by the enterprise computer 106a for inclusion in the enterprise database 116a. In the illustrative embodiment, the client software 112a displays each of the indicators 204a - 204d using HTML. The client software 112a employs JavaScript to transform the XML information that was originally provided by the enterprises for each of the indicators. The client software 112a also employs JavaScript to create the HTML code that the client software 112a displays. The JavaScript code employed resides on the client computer 104a and need not be downloaded from the server computer 102 each time the server computer 102 transfers the XML encoded information to the client computer 104a. The JavaScript code that corresponds to a particular brand indicator 204a - 204d is downloaded to the client computer 104a in response to the user configuring the menu bar 208 to include the particular brand indicator. In the illustrative embodiment, the enterprise computer 106a periodically updates its associated enterprise database 116a at the server computer 102. Illustratively, the enterprise computer 106a can send the updated information in XML. An XML processor operating on the server computer 102 generates the appropriate database commands, for example Structured Query language (SQL) statements, which it then executes to modify the enterprise database 116a. In the illustrative embodiment, the enterprise databases 116a 116d have the same structure. Only the content of the database fields varies between each enterprise database 116a - 116d. Therefore, the same software can be used to service all enterprises. In other embodiments, the structures of the enterprise databases 116a - 116d are not identical. In this embodiment, the server software 114 employs more complex service and maintenance software to handle all of the various database structures.

As discussed above, in response to the server computer 102 signaling matches to the client computer 202, the client software 112a alters the appearance of an indicator, such as the indicator 204a. The user can select the indicator 204a, for example by using a pointing device such as a "mouse." As also disclosed above, with the match information, the server computer 102 transfers the enterprise-defined information stored in the enterprise database 116a to the client computer 104a. In response to the indicator selection, the client software 112a displays the transferred enterprise-defined information at the client computer 104 in a pop-up display 206. The user can select material displayed within the pop-up display 206. Such selection may cause the server computer 102 to display further information, or may cause the client software 112a to execute an embedded link, or the like. Alternatively, the user can close the pop-up display 206. The user is at all times free to exit and cease viewing. Additionally, the user can also select an indicator 204a - 204d, even if it has not changed appearance. Additionally, enterprises can define information to be displayed in the pop-up display 206 associated with an indicator that has not changed appearance.

FIG. 3 is a flowchart depicting illustrative interactions between and among a user employing a client computer, such as the client computer 104a; an enterprise interacting with the user over the network 108 via, for example the enterprise computer 106a; and the server computer 102. In this illustrative embodiment, events closer to the top of the figure occur relatively earlier than events farther down the figure. FIG. 3 presents the activities of the enterprise and the enterprise computer 106a on the left, the activities of the server computer 102 in the middle, and the activities of the user and the client computer 104a on the right. A horizontal dotted line is used to indicate events that have an arbitrary separation in time. An enterprise registers as a company or other entity with the operator of the server computer 102. The enterprise uploads information from database 110a, via the enterprise computer 106a and the network 108, to the server computer 102; or provides information to the server computer 102 by sending the information recorded on a floppy disk, CD-ROM, or other machine-readable medium. These actions are represented by the action box 300 labeled

"Register; Upload information." The server computer 102 responds by performing the action denoted by the box 302 labeled "Record information in a database." The information recorded in the database 116a includes information that the enterprise wishes to make available to the user, as well as key words, phrases, symbols, and the like to be used for matching the contents of the database with the contents of a page that the user is viewing. The matching process can include consideration of the contextual basis of the information.

At a later time, the user performs the actions indicated by the action box 304, labeled "Register; Download client software 112a; Download indicator 204a; Create "anonymous" email address." The user thus obtains a copy of the client software 112a, and it is installed on the client computer 104a. With the client software 112a, the user downloads from locations on the network 108 the information needed to generate one or more of the indicators 204a - 204d. That information becomes resident on the client computer 104a. Additionally, the server software 114 sets up an anonymous email account for the user. The server computer 102 provides the storage space for the anonymous email account. The user later elects to perform the actions denoted by the action box 306, labeled

"Configure indicator; Browse Web page ("START")." As described above, configuring the indicators is the process by which a user adds or subtracts indicators associated with enterprises to the tool bar 208. The client software 112a communicates to the server computer 102 which indicators 204a — 204d are configured for operation. According to another feature, the user can close the toolbar 208. This sets all of the configured indicators 204a - 204d into an inactive state. According to another feature, the user can activate a different toolbar 208 upon which indicators different from indicators 204a - 204d have been previously loaded for operation. A toolbar with an associated group of indicators can be, for example, a topical area of interest, in which enterprises associated with the indicators are related by a topic, such as sports, or business, or in which the indicators may be related only by the user's interest, such as hobbies, or the like.

As also discussed above, in response to a user having configured indicators 204a - 204d and viewing a page of information, the client software 112a transmits to the server computer 102 information, including the content and/or the URL of the viewed page, along with local and/or user-defined information. If only the URL is transmitted, the server computer 102 obtains the content of the viewed page by accessing the page identified by the URL. The server computer 102 obtains the content for use in the comparison process, as indicated by the action box 308, labeled "Obtain URL, page content." As indicated at 300 and 302, the server computer 102 then compares the content it has obtained against the information that the enterprise has previously provided, and that the server computer 102 has previously stored in the enterprise database 116a. The comparison activity is denoted by the action box 310, labeled "Perform comparison with database." Regardless of the outcome of the comparison, the server computer 102 logs the resulting outcome, and informs the client computer 104a by a message communicated over the network 108 that a match has occurred, and provides enterprise-defined information related to matches to the client computer 104a. Alternatively, the server computer 102 informs the client computer 104a that there was no match, and provides the client computer with enterprise-defined information associated with a no match condition. As indicated in box 312, the server computer 102 also logs statistics relating to matches. From time-to-time, the server computer 102 processes the logged statistics and provides the processed results to the enterprise computer 106a. According to another embodiment, the server computer 102 passes match information to the enterprise computer 106a concurrently with providing the match information to the client computer 104a. In response to being provided match information, the client software 112a changes the appearance of the indicator(s) 204a - 204d corresponding to the enterprise(s) for which match information was provided. In response to no match occurring, the client software 112a, optionally, changes the appearance of the indicator(s) 204a - 204d to announce that no match has occurred. In other embodiments, the client software 112a provides audio notification of a match. In still other embodiments, the client software 112a changes the location of an indicator, such as indicator 204a, to signal a match. In still further embodiments, indicators are initially hidden from view and the client software 112a causes configured indicators to be displayed in response to a match occurring. All of these actions are embodied in the action box 314, labeled "Change appearance of indicator."

When the enterprise is informed of the match statistics by a communication from server computer 102 to the enterprise computer 106a via the network 108, the enterprise uses the match statistics as it deems appropriate. One possible use is to update the information that is recorded in the database 116a. The enterprise can provide new information as it deems appropriate, for example, in the event that the enterprise offers a new product or service. The enterprise performs the updating by repeating the actions denoted by the action boxes 300 and 302, described above. In one embodiment, the enterprise causes the enterprise computer 106a to transmit new or additional information to the server computer 102 for updating the records of the enterprise that are maintained in databases 116a-l 16d. Such action takes place as directed by the enterprise and has no fixed temporal relationship to other activities described in FIG. 3. These actions are denoted by the action box 338, labeled "Enterprise uses match statistics." An arrow labeled "To 302" indicates that the enterprise can cause new or modified information to be recorded in the database 116a - 116d, as described above with respect to box 302.

Upon being notified of a match by the change in appearance of an indicator 204a - 204d, the user is presented with a choice, which is denoted by the decision diamond 316, labeled "User choice." Illustratively, the user has three possible choices.

The user can immediately exit, as denoted by the arrow labeled "Exit to 324" pointing to action box 324, labeled "Exit." In the event that the user elects to exit the system, the interaction with the server computer 102 ceases, as for example when the user terminates the program that permits browsing on a network, or turns off the user computer 104a entirely.

The user can ignore the indicator and can continue to browse, as denoted by the arrow labeled "New Page" pointing from decision diamond 316 to action box 306, labeled "Configure indicator; Browse web page ("START")." If the user makes this election, a new set of interactions with the server computer 102 is initiated, which corresponds to a new instance of the user beginning to browse as denoted at action box 306, and the actions that follow therefrom. The user has the ability to configure the tool bar 208 by adding or deleting any of the indicators 204a - 204d. One can view such an eventuality as a recursion of the process begun at the action box 306.

If the user elects to obtain additional information from an enterprise, the user selects the indicator that corresponds to the enterprise of interest. If a match has occurred, that indicator may have changed appearance. The user performs such selection, for example, with a computer pointing device, such as a "mouse." The activity of selecting the indicator is denoted by the arrow labeled "select indicator" pointing from decision diamond 316 to action box 318.

As discussed above with respect to FIG. 2, in response to the user selecting an indicator, such as indicator 204a, the client software 112a displays enterprise-defined information to the user by way of a pop-up display 206. This action is denoted by the action box 320, labeled "Display in pop-up display information from database 116 provided by enterprise."

In this illustrative embodiment, once the pop-up display 206 is activated, the user has a decision to make as to how to proceed. The decision is denoted by the decision diamond 322, labeled "User choice." As indicated in block 322, the user can choose to interact with the pop-up display (block 326), exit the system (block 324), or browse a new page (block 306).

In the event the user chooses to interact with the pop-up display 206, the illustrative system provides a plurality of options. By way of example, the user can read information displayed in the pop-up display 206, activate a URL displayed in the pop-up display 206 to browse a page containing information related to the enterprise associated with the selected indicator 204a, or activate another window inside the pop-up display 206 by selecting an item displayed in the pop-up display 206.

According to one embodiment, in response to selecting a URL displayed inside the popup display 206, the user is directed to a new page defined by the enterprise. The browse a new page feature is accomplished by any one of a number of conventional methods, such as embedding a link to the new page in the content of the pop-up display 206, instantiating a new copy of the browser software that uses the URL of the page to be browsed as a default, or as is done in the illustrative embodiment, changing the page of the browser that the user currently has open. Upon viewing the new page, the user again has the option of following the sequence of pages that may appear as a consequence of activating the contents of the pop-up display 206 again, browsing to a new page, or exiting. This range of possibilities is denoted by the decision diamond 334, labeled "User choice." The user can elect to "Exit," by the action denoted by the action box 324, described above. In this case, the program follows the arrow labeled "Exit." If the user elects to browse a new page, the program follows the arrow labeled "New Page" to the action box 306, as described above. In the illustrative embodiment, the server computer 102 logs information with regard to but not limited to, an ID that uniquely identifies the user, the user's IP address, the date and time of interaction, the time it takes to satisfy a request, the URL of the page being browsed, the result of any match detection, and the like. The server computer 102 also monitors the user's click- through stream. Either periodically or upon enterprise request, the server computer 102 provides reports regarding these statistics to the enterprise. These reports can be transmitted over the network 108. The information given to the enterprise does not include information that identifies the user individually, so as to insure the privacy of individuals who utilize the illustrative system. The information given to the enterprise is provided to the enterprise at a time that is not fixed with regard to the activities that occur between the user computer 104a and the server computer 102, and has no relation to the user activating the popup window 206. The action box 336, labeled "Transmit report to enterprise" denotes this transmission of information.

The enterprise can use the information provided by the action denoted in action box 336 in a manner described above in connection with action box 338. Additionally, the enterprise can modify the information stored in the databases 116a - 116d at any time, without relation to the reporting of information from the server computer 102. This use of information is denoted by the action box 338 labeled "Enterprise uses match data" and an arrow labeled "To 302" indicates that the enterprise can cause new or modified information to be recorded in the database 116a - 116d, as described above with respect to box 302.

A further feature of the illustrative system is that it enables the enterprise to send email to the user by way of an anonymous email account provided by the server computer 102. Since the server computer 102 provides each user with an anonymous email identification, the enterprise does not know the actual identity of the user or users who generated the matches to the enterprise database 116a. However, the enterprise does know what viewed pages evoked a match, along with the course of action that the user(s) took in response to being notified of the match via an indicator 204a-204d. Illustratively, as denoted by box 340, the enterprise sends email through the server computer 102. The server computer 102 receives the email and notifies the appropriate user of the email reception. According to one embodiment, the server computer 102 signals the client software 112a regarding email reception, and the client software 112a alters the appearance of the associated indicator 204a. Alternatively, the server computer 102 emails the user notification of the arrival of anonymous email. According to the illustrative embodiment, the server computer 102 allocates storage space for each anonymous email account and periodically purges the allocated storage space. This receipt and notification of the email is denoted by the action box 342, labeled "System notifies user of email reception."

The user can handle email in any of several ways. The user can elect to read an email sent to the user, to discard the email unread, or to ignore the email and let the user's mailbox fill up, as occurs in conventional email systems. This election and corresponding action is denoted by the action box 344, labeled "User handles email."

FIG. 4 is a schematic flow diagram 400 of illustrative operations of the client computer 104a. The flow diagram 400 begins at the action box 405 labeled "Start" which represents a user beginning a session of browsing on a computer network, such as the Web. In this action, the user activates software that causes the transmission of either or both of the contents of a Web page, or the URL identifier of the Web page, to the server computer 102.

As depicted by action box 410, the user can configure one or more indicators 204a-204d, each indicator being associated with a specific enterprise. The typical methods of making a choice in a graphical user interface ("GUI") system, such as the use of icons, menus and the like can be used for the indicator configuration processes discussed in this disclosure. The configuration of an indicator associated with an enterprise indicates to the server computer 102 that the user is interested in the type of product, service, and/or information that the specific enterprise provides. An enterprise can have more than one indicator, each indicator having an association with a type of product, service, and/or information that the enterprise provides. For example, a retailer such as a department store can have a indicator for men's clothing, another indicator for women's clothing, a third indicator for furniture, a indicator for home maintenance services, and yet additional indicators for other types of goods or services. The user can configure one or more indicators, depending on the goods and/or services that the user finds to be of interest.

The user can view a Web page that is hosted on a computer that is in communication with the network 108. The action of viewing a Web page is denoted by the action box 415, labeled "User views Web page." As described above, and as discussed in further detail below, a Web page that the user views may contain information, such as a symbol, a word, a phrase, an image or the like, that is a match with information identified by the enterprise associated with an indicator configured by the user. The server computer 102 determines matches by comparing the contents of an enterprise databases 116a- 116d with the contents of the page being viewed.

As indicated at 420, the occurrence of a match causes the client software 112a to change the appearance of the indicator associated with the enterprise database generating the match. The change in appearance can be visual and/or auditory in nature.

As shown at 430, regardless of whether a match occurs, the user can choose whether to select an indicator, such as indicator 204a. As shown in block 435, in response to the user selecting an indicator 204a, the client software 112a displays for the user a pop-up display 206 within the display 202. As shown in block 440, the user has the option to interact with the information contained in the pop-up display 206. As described earlier, with respect to FIG. 3, the pop-up display 206 contains information selected by the enterprise. The information displayed within the pop-up display 206 can include links to Web pages, such as links provided as URLs within the pop-up display 206, or links connected to material displayed within the pop-up display 206, such as icons. The pop-up display 206 can also contain links that cause other windows to be displayed within the pop-up display 206. Alternatively, the user can elect not to select an enterprise indicator, and instead return to diamond 425, where the user can choose either to return to configuring enterprise indicators, to display another Web page or to exit the system.

As shown at 440 and 450, the user can choose to interact with the information in the pop- up display 206, or as shown at 445 to close the pop-up display and return to diamond 425. Possible interactions with the pop-up display are described above with respect to FIG. 3. As shown at 440, subsequent to interacting with the information contained in the pop-up display 206, the user returns to diamond 440 to decide whether to interact further or close the pop-up display 206 and return to diamond 425. As discussed with respect to FIG. 3, the server software 114 establishes an anonymous email account for each user. Although not shown in FIG. 3, the user can receive notification of receipt of the anonymous emails and view received anonymous emails at substantially any point in the flow diagram 400.

The user has freedom to operate the illustrative system in accordance with the flowchart 400 depicted in FIG. 4 as few or as many times as he or she desires, configuring whichever indicators associated with whichever enterprises the user finds of interest at each navigation of the flow diagram. From the perspective of the user, the system allows him or her to explore whatever material is available on the network 108, using whatever indicators the user configures before each page is viewed.

FIG. 5 is a schematic flow diagram 500 of a process executing on the illustrative enterprise computer 106a. The embodiment depicted is intended to illustrate how enterprises accomplish a variety of tasks. The enterprise has control over the kind of association that it chooses to have made with its brand information. At the action box 510, labeled "Start," the enterprise creates a connection over a network 108 between for example, the enterprise computer 106a and the server computer 102.

At the action box 520, labeled "Enterprise registers with server computer," the enterprise sets up an account with the operator of the server computer 102. The account provides the enterprise the opportunity to transmit to the server computer 102 information pertaining to the enterprise's products, services and/or information intended to be disseminated to interested users of the system. As part of the registration process, the enterprise is given one or more identifiers that provide secure identification of the enterprise and that assure that the enterprise can control access to information that is supplied to the server computer 102 for use in connection with the illustrative system of the invention.

As denoted by the action box 530 labeled "Enterprise defines content for indicator," the enterprise can provide content for an indicator, such as the indicator 204a. The content may include for example a symbol, text, an image, a look and feel, a dynamic Web program, an interactive control, and the like. As mentioned above, a single enterprise can arrange with the operator of the server computer 102 to have more than one indicator; each indicator associated with an enterprise can have a specific content defined by the enterprise.

As denoted by the action box 540, labeled "Enterprise defines content for pop-up display," the enterprise can also provide content for the pop-up display 206, including for example a symbol, text, an image, a look and feel, a dynamic Web program, an interactive control, and the like. In the illustrative embodiment, the pop-up display 206 is associated with the indicator 204a. The client software 112a displays the pop-up display 106 in response to the user selecting the indicator 204a.

As described in detail above, the enterprise provides the server computer 102 with information that the server computer 102 stores in a logical enterprise database, such as database 116a. According to the illustrative embodiment, only information associated with the enterprise is stored in the database 116a, and no other parties have any privilege to access the information. The action box 550 labeled "Enterprise provides information for server computer database including context" denotes the provision of such information. The information can be provided by the enterprise in encrypted format over a computer network, such as the Web. Alternatively, the enterprise can provide the information as files recorded on a machine-readable medium. The information can be delivered in any of a variety of formats, including for example, XML. According to one embodiment, the enterprise can supply information including contextual references for the information, so that a match will be determined to occur when the context of the two kinds of material (i.e., the enterprise's database information, and the material found in the page that the user is viewing) are related. The provision of context information is helpful in eliminating false positive matches that may occur if, for example, a word in the page the user is viewing happens to match a word that the enteφrise has included in the database 116a, and the two words are homonyms. However, the system of the invention may be implemented with or without contextual relevance features.

Once the enteφrise has provided the information required in the definition of the indicator 204a, the definition of the pop-up display 206, and the information needed to compare the content of a viewed page with the content of the enteφrise database 116a, the server computer 102 can monitor the activity of a user and determine if a match occurs. As described above in detail, the illustrative enteφrise computer 106a also maintains statistical information regarding detected matches, and provide such information to the enteφrise. The enteφrise can respond to match information, at its choice, by sending an email message to the server computer 102 for delivery to the user. The identity of the user is known to the server computer 102, but is unknown to the enteφrise. These interactions are indicated at the action box 560 labeled "Enteφrise receives anonymous data regarding match, can send email."

The system then enters a loop comprising the activities represented by the action boxes 530, 540, 550, 560 and 570. The action box 570 denotes the ability of the enteφrise to perform periodic activities, including monitoring the activity of users in the aggregate (but not the activities of individual users), modifying the information stored in the database 116a, and modifying the appearance of the indicator 204a and the content of the pop-up display 206. When the enteφrise determines that such modifications need to take place, the enteφrise computer 106a provides the appropriate new information to the server computer 102. The server computer 102 then employs the new information in place of the information that is to be replaced or updated. FIG. 6 is a schematic flow diagram 600 of an interactive process executing on the server computer 102. As depicted in the illustrative embodiment shown in FIG. 6, the server computer 102 is involved in two loops that occur substantially independently. One loop involves the client computer 104a, and the other involves the enteφrise computer 106a. In the illustrative embodiment, only one client computer 104a and only one enteφrise computer 106 are described. Those of ordinary skill in the computer arts will recognize that the server computer 102 can interact simultaneously with a plurality of client computers 104a-104d and a plurality of enteφrise computers 106a-106d. Furthermore, the rate of interaction between the server computer 102 and any one client computer 104a is independent of the rate of interaction between the server computer and any other client computer. Also, the server computer 102 can be interacting with a client computer 104a at any step in the loop irrespective of where the server computer 102 is in another interaction with another computer. The discussion will first describe the loop that involves an exemplary client computer 104a..

The process depicted in FIG. 6 are essentially interrupt-driven. Thus, the server computer 102 waits to receive a request from a client computer 104a-104d. Decision diamond 605, labeled "Wait for request," denotes this waiting step. So long as no client computer 104a makes a request, the server computer 102 waits, which is exemplified by the arrow labeled "No," which exits and returns to the decision diamond 605.

When server computer 102 receives a request from an exemplary client computer 104a, the program operating on server computer 102 follows the arrow labeled "Yes" to action box 610.

Action box 610 labeled "Request includes: Text; URL; Information about configured indicator(s); Any other information" denotes the information that the client computer 104a sends to the server computer 102, as part of a request to perform a match. As noted above, the information includes, but is not limited to the text of the page displayed on the client computer, the URL of that page, information that indicates the brand owners or the databases 116a-l 16d to be searched, and any other information that the viewer of the client computer 104a sends, for example, viewer-entered information in a dialog box or the like.

The action box 615 labeled "Perform match procedure for each indicator configured" denotes the matching process that the server computer 102 performs. In this process, the server computer 102 compares the information that was supplied by an owner of a configured indicator, and recorded in the databases 116a-l 16d, against the content of the page located at the URL specified in action box 610. As noted above, the text can be sent by the client computer 104a or alternatively, can be downloaded by the server computer 102 by use of the URL. Such a matching procedure is performed for each indicator that is configured by the user viewing the page. The server computer 102 then sends the results of the matching procedure to the client computer 104a. The action box 620, labeled "Send results to client computer 104a with email notification," denotes this portion of the matching process. As described above, the server computer 102 sends the results as an XML file that is then processed by the client software using JavaScript to generate the display at the client computer 104a. If there is email for the user, the server computer 102 sends the client computer 104a a message notifying the user that email is available.

The server computer 102 logs the results of the matching procedure. Action box 625, labeled "Log results of match procedure," denotes this step. As described above, the server computer 102 uses these logged results to provide the enteφrise computers 106a-106d with statistics regarding matches that have occurred and users' click-through streams. The server computer 102 completes the loop by returning to the decision diamond 605, where the server computer 102 waits for the next request from a client computer 104a - 104d.

At the same time, the server computer 102 performs functions relating to the activity of enteφrises. The action of an exemplary enteφrise computer 106a is described in FIG. 6. As the server computer 102 is essentially interrupt-driven, activity can begin anywhere in FIG. 6.

However, for illustrative puφoses, the server computer 102 is depicted as beginning action at the action box 650, labeled "Start loop." An enteφrise computer 106a can perform a plurality of activities, each activity capable of being carried out independently of other activities. Three illustrative activities are modifying or updating the information that the enteφrise has given the server computer 102 for entry in the databases 116a-l 16d, obtaining the information that the server computer 102 has logged with respect to the enteφrise' s indicator(s), and sending email to anonymous accounts maintained by the server computer 102. The server computer 102 operating in conjunction with the enteφrise computers 106a-106d can perform these activities in any order. Fig. 6 first describes the interactions relating to updating or modifying a database 116a- 116d. The enteφrise computer 106a can request a database update or modification at decision diamond 655, labeled "Enteφrise wants to modify database?." If the enteφrise computer 106a makes no such request, the server computer 102 waits and remains ready to service such a request. As shown in block 660, in response to such a request, the server computer 102 updates the database 116a with information transferred from the enteφrise computer 106a.

The action box 670, labeled "Inform Enteφrise of statistics," denotes the action of the server computer 102 providing to an enteφrise 106a a report of the statistical results that the server computer logs in box 625. The server computer 102 provides to the enteφrise computer 106a a report that contains aggregated statistics relating to matches detected during the matching process performed by the server computer 102. The report can include summaries of the actions taken by users in response to being informed of the availability of match information. Such summaries may include click-through behavior. The server computer 102 can also inform the enteφrise of other statistics that were observed, such as total numbers of visitors, total number of matches, and so forth. Although the server computer 102 may inform the enteφrise of the existence of any number of matches, details of the matching information, the context of the match, and the viewing activity that the user undertakes in response to the matches, the server computer 102 does not reveal the identity of the user. Instead, the server computer 102 assigns each user an anonymous identification and provides the user with an anonymous email account. Action box 680, labeled "Receive email from Enteφrise anonymously," denotes the action of the enteφrise computer 106a delivering, and server computer 102 receiving, email sent by the enteφrise to anonymous users.

As indicated by the action box 685, labeled "Store email in appropriate location," the server computer 102 stores the emails provided by the exemplary enteφrise computer 106a in the mailboxes of the users for whom the emails were intended. Since the exemplary enteφrise computer 106a does not have access to the real names or identifiers of the viewers, the server computer 102 stores each email in the appropriate location or mailbox. As previously discussed with respect to the action box 620, the server computer 102 notifies users of email concurrently with providing match information.

As an illustrative example, suppose that a user has an interest in skiing. The user can view the Web pages of various manufacturers and/or vendors of ski equipment, for example, at a time when the user wishes to buy new equipment. In addition, the user can view Web pages of publications such as magazines that discuss skiing and ski equipment, ski areas, skiing competitions, and the like. Further, suppose that the user has downloaded and configured one or more indicators 204a - 204d that are associated with particular ski manufacturers. Assume that the user views a Web page of a magazine that describes a ski competition, in which the name of a competitor, for example the winner of the competition, is presented. The description in the magazine may be devoid of any reference to the brand of skis that the competition winner uses. However, the manufacturer of the brand of skis used by the competition winner may place in a database information that discusses the brand of skis, and information that associates a reference to the individual skier with the brand. If the user has configured an indicator associated with the manufacturer or the brand of skis in question, the indicator will change appearance to inform the user that there is information available that may be of interest to the user. When the user selects the indicator, the user will be shown a pop-up display that can include information about that brand of skis, such as available models and price information, specifications, reviews of products, vendors names and addresses, and the like. If the user then activates a citation in the pop-up display, the user may be shown, for example, a description of a model of skis, the type of usage appropriate for that model, the price, vendor information, an opportunity to read one or more reviews, and the like. The user is free to close the pop-up display, views one or more Web pages from the listing in the pop-up display, to browse the Web at his or her discretion, or to terminate the Web browsing session.

In the illustrative embodiment of FIG. 7, the user is engaged in browsing pages on the Web after having configured one or more of the indicators 204a - 204d. The user screen 700 can be viewed from the display 202 of the computer 104. The typical Web page contains both text 702 and one or more graphics 704. As indicated on the address line 706 of the screen 700, the user is browsing the Web page of Brand A, located at http://www.BrandA.com. The user has configured an indicator 204b associated with Brand B. In the illustrative embodiment, the indicator 204b is visible when configured. In an alternative embodiment, the indicator 204b can be hidden when configured and become visible in response to a detected match. The indicator 204b is shown as appearing at the lower extremity of the user screen 700. However, in other embodiments, the indicator can be located elsewhere on the user screen 700; for example on either side of the user screen 700, or at the top of the user screen 700. In another embodiment, an invisible indicator 204d, shown in FIG. 7 as a dotted box, can be placed anywhere on the user screen 300. In the embodiment shown, indicator 204b is configured to be active. The enteφrise associated with indicator 204b, Brand B, can provide information to the user, based on the configuration of indicator 204b, key words or terms and match criteria that enteφrise Brand B has stored in its database 112b, and the material that appears in the one or more Web pages that the user visits, along with local and user-defined information. One should note that in FIG. 7, there is an indicator for Brand B, but the user has not yet obtained an indicator for Brand A, the enteφrise whose Web page the user is viewing.

As indicated on the address line 706 of screen 800 in FIG. 8, the user is still browsing the Web location http://www.BrandA.com. The user has added a Brand A indicator 204a to the tool bar 208. The screen 800 is otherwise unchanged from the appearance of the screen 700 of FIG. 7.

The user can add the Brand A indicator 204a by clicking once on the appropriate logo or text of a Web page, such as the page www.BrandA.com. In response, the client software 112a automatically downloads and configures the indicator 204a. As an example, a "1 -click" method of downloading and configuring an indicator 204a can employ a link that downloads the indicator 204a as a set of JavaScript, XML and other files, including graphics files, a portion of which the client software 112 then executes to create a displayed indicator 204a. The net result is that in response to a single mouse click, an indicator 204a is downloaded and configured onto the toolbar 208 of the client computer 104a. As denoted by the address http ://www.BrandB . com on the address line 706 of the screen

900 in FIG. 9, the user has browsed to a Web page of Brand B. The appearance of the Web page of Brand B is quite different from that of Brand A in FIG. 8. The Web page www.BrandB.com includes text 910 that is not identical to the text 702 in the Web page www.BrandA.com, although some individual words or phrases may be common to both Web pages. The Web page www.BrandB.com includes graphics 912, 912', 912" that are in general not identical to the graphics 704 of the Web page www.BrandB.com.

During the course of the user browsing a page, the client software 112a sends the content of the page and/or its URL to the server computer 102. Illustratively, the client resends the content of the displayed page and/or the page's URL whenever the content of the page that the user is viewing changes. The server computer 102 can analyze the page contents as provided by the client software 112a. Alternatively, the server computer 102 can obtain the contents of the page the user is viewing by employing the provided URL, and then analyze the obtained page contents. Based on the performed analysis, the server computer 102 determines if a match exists between the contents of the page being viewed and the contents of any enteφrise databases 116a- 116d that correspond to configured indicators 204a-204d.

In the embodiment shown in FIG. 9, the server computer 102 has detected a match between the contents of the server database 116a of Brand A and some portion of the content of the screen 900. In response to being notified of the match, the client software 112a has changed the appearance of the Brand A indicator 204a.

In FIG. 9, the text in the page displayed in the user screen 900 refers to "Monitors..." 914 in the category "Hardware Reviews" 916. Based on the user's interest in the page, the enteφrise of indicator 204a and the enteφrise of indicator 204b can infer that the user likely will want to see further information about computer monitors, which is in keeping with the usage of the words "computer monitors." However, had the text referred to equipment in which "an embedded computer monitors the temperature of a process," neither enteφrise should infer a basis for presenting additional information about computer monitors (although an enteφrise is at liberty to do so).

The user can select an indicator, regardless of whether it has changed appearance. Selection can be accomplished, for example, by moving the cursor associated with a pointing device such as a "mouse" over indicator 204a, moving such a cursor and clicking a switch such as a mouse button, touching a display screen such as a touch screen at the indicator 204a, using one or more keys of a computer keyboard to activate the indicator 204a, providing a voice command, or the like.

The change in appearance of indicator 204a (or, for example, the change of indicator 204e from invisible to visible) is used to inform the user that there is information available from an associated enteφrise. The user can elect to view the additional material by selecting the indicator.

As denoted by the address http ://www.BrandB . com on address line 706 of the screen 1000 in FIG. 10, the user is still browsing the Web page of Brand B. The user has selected the Brand A indicator 204a, and a pop-up display 206 has appeared, covering a portion of the Web page of Brand B. The top section 1010 of the pop-up display 206 identifies the window as being associated with Brand A. The pop-up display 206 has two information areas, 1020, 1030 in the embodiment shown. The information area 1020 displays the headlines of news articles sorted by a first criterion. The information area 1030 displays the headlines of news articles sorted according to a second criterion. The user can observe that a particular article has scored high on both criteria. In other embodiments, the Brand A enteφrise can display different types of information, as the enteφrise deems appropriate.

The pop-up display 206 can contain, for example, product reviews about computer monitors with information such as a URL of a Web page of the enteφrise (or of the enteφrise 's selection), and/or the pop-up display 206 can contain company information about the enteφrise's company, and information such as a URL for additional Web pages that contain further information. In the case that the user is interested in observing more information about the topics announced in the pop-up display 206, the user can act by viewing one or more Web pages identified in the pop-up display 206. Optionally, the user can be offered products related to computer monitors by the enteφrise of indicator 204a. The contents of the pop-up display 206 are defined by the enteφrise that controls the indicator associated with the pop-up display 206. The visible contents of the pop-up display 206 can be any material that the enteφrise selects for display. h one embodiment, the pop-up display 206 displays the same XML material that was used to activate the icon or indicator, only transformed by a different JavaScript file. The pop-up display 206 displays all of the relevant information in such a way that the user can determine that there is more information to be had about this page from an enteφrise's Web site. By clicking on the information that is interesting to the user, the browser can be redirected to the additional information provided by the enteφrise.

In FIG. 11, the user is selecting the first article listed in the information area 1020, by using the "hand" icon 1105 to highlight the title 1110. As indicated for example by the lighter appearance of title 1115 in information area 1030, the remaining titles in both the information areas 1020, 1030 are not selected. As denoted by the address http ://www.BrandB . com on the Address line 706 of the screen 1100, the pop-up display 206 is still covering a portion of the Web page of Brand B.

The information in the pop-up display 206 can include embedded links to other pages, so that the user can browse another Web page simply by activating the link, as for example by using a pointing device such as a mouse. According to the illustrative embodiment, the Web page to which the user is directed contains information selected by the enteφrise that controls the pop-up display 206 and the associated indicator 204a. The enteφrise may provide its own material, or alternatively may provide a link or a pointer to material provided by others that is available for viewing somewhere on the network 108. The user can at his or her volition activate the link necessary to view one or more such additional pages. As indicated on the Address line 706 of the screen 1200, in response to information provided by the Brand A enteφrise in the pop-up display 206 of FIGs. 10 and 11, in FIG. 12, the user has redirected the browser to a Web page of the Brand A enteφrise, located at http ://www.Brand A. com/techno .htm. The article displayed corresponds to the title 1115 activated by the user. The Web page http://www.BrandA.com/techno.htm includes text 1210, a graphic 1220, and a menu bar 1230 that displays further selections that the user can elect, or that the user can ignore, as he or she wishes. The title of other news items and the time each was posted appears in a sidebar 1240. Th user is free to select or to ignore these additional items. The Brand A indicator 204a is still displayed, which signals the user that additional information is available from the Brand A enteφrise, should the user desire to observe it. By contrast, the Brand B indicator 204b is unchanged throughout the sequence of FIGs. 7 to 12, indicating to the user that there is no information available from the Brand B enteφrise that is expected to be of interest to the user. As is well known in the use of browsers, the user can control the action of the browser by using the browser controls that appear at the top of the screens throughout the FIGs. 7-12.

While the invention has been particularly shown and described with reference to specific preferred embodiments, it should be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes in form and detail may be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims. What is claimed is:

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Referencia
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Clasificaciones
Clasificación internacionalG06F17/30
Clasificación cooperativaG06F17/30
Clasificación europeaG06F17/30W1F
Eventos legales
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