IBM Patents System for Preserving E-mail Messages, Seeks Patent on Cloud Computing Tactics to Improve Business Efficiency

International Business Machines, usually referred to as IBM, is a major developer of technological infrastructure and computer systems for organizations. The company has been making strong gains, having just been awarded its largest governmental contract for cloud computing services, $1 billion from the U.S. Department of the Interior. The recently announced acquisition of Israeli cybersecurity firm Trusteer for approximately $800 million will increase the company’s operations in hacking and digital fraud prevention.

Today in IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series, we return to profile this American multinational corporation headquartered in Armonk, NY. A few patent applications filed with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office show IBM’s interests in improving online shopping experiences. One application provides a chronological timeline view for user review interfaces in an online store. Another application creates a virtual cart system that multiple users can interact with collaboratively, whether shopping online or at the store.

Other documents we feature here pertain more generally to computer systems, especially those with business applications. One recent issued patent protects a system of prioritizing e-mail to prevent against automated deletion of important data. A patent application filed by IBM would protect a system of analyzing a business’s computer systems and making suggestions for cloud computing resources. Finally, we look at a patent application that provides a system for recycling solid state devices discarded by users.


Collaborative Shopping Across Multiple Shopping Channels Using Shared Virtual Shopping Carts
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130211953

Online shopping has become a much more common practice over the past decade. Although it has some benefits over visiting a physical store location to shop, the online experience lacks the ability to shop collaboratively with another person. Online shopping carts are usually only shared with a single user logged into a website account on a store. Further, there are no methods of collaborating across different shopping channels, such as telephone or mobile app shopping.

This patent application describes a system of virtual shopping carts that would allow multiple users to interact collaboratively during the shopping experience. Users interact with the shopping cart through various devices connected to the same network. This system provides for personal shopping assistant devices installed on shopping carts, so that users in a physical store could interact with the virtual cart without using their own device.

As Claim 1 explains, IBM is seeking to protect:

“A system for collaborative shopping, comprising: a plurality of shopping devices interconnected by a network, the shopping devices being used by shoppers in a collaborative shopping session; and a plurality of virtual shopping carts respectively associated with the shopping devices for sharing information on items of interest among the shoppers and enabling the shoppers to collaborate on the shopping.”

Suggesting Migration to a Cloud Computing Infrastructure
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130205007

Business computer systems and personal electronics have both been tending towards cloud computing rather than grid networking. Grid networking requires users to be directly connected to software within a network, while cloud resources are accessible to many users from different networks. Businesses that want to convert to cloud networking may not be aware of resources, they may be unsure of the costs or other unknown factors may prevent decision making.

IBM is seeking to patent a system of analyzing an information technology (IT) environment to determine ways cloud computing could improve current business processes. The system analyzes historical incident data from the IT environment and searches cloud computing resources to determine cloud migration tactics that would improve business efficiency. The cloud resources would then be reported back to the IT environments.

Claim 1 of this patent application would give IBM legal protection over:

“A method for suggesting migration to a cloud computing infrastructure, the method comprising the steps of: at least one processor analyzing historical incident data of an information technology (IT) environment; the at least one processor determining, based on the historical incident data, that a problem is recurring in the IT environment; the at least one processor determining that the problem can be mitigated in the cloud computing infrastructure; and the at least one processor generating a report particular to the IT environment, the report identifying a benefit of migrating the IT environment to the cloud computing infrastructure.”

E-mail Awareness Enhancement
U.S. Patent No. 8510393

E-mail is currently among the world’s most popular forms of communication, and huge stores of e-mail messages are sent across the Internet every day. E-mail may be for either personal or business use and e-mail documents often vary in importance. However, when e-mail systems perform regular maintenance on accounts, e-mails may be deleted without any concern for priority. This can create difficult business situations if crucial e-mail data for business processes or company audits has been deleted.

Recently, the USPTO issued a patent to IBM to protect a system of preserving important e-mail messages against deletion from an account. A processor determines the importance of an e-mail based on triggering events enacted by a user. One such triggering event would be an e-mail user setting an away or “out of office” status. E-mails that meet certain criteria would not be automatically deleted through regularly scheduled maintenance.

As Claim 1 states, IBM has now earned the right to protect:

“A computer implemented method for preserving the functionality of an e-mail account containing e-mail messages for an e-mail user, comprising: determining, by a processor, whether an event has occurred with respect to the email account, wherein an occurrence of the event results in a consequence activity with respect to the e-mail account, wherein the consequence activity will reduce the functionality of the email account; responsive to determining that the event has occurred, determining, by the processor, whether criteria is satisfied, wherein the criteria relates to an absent status of the e-mail user; and responsive to determining that the criteria is satisfied and that the e-mail user is absent, preventing the consequence activity which reduces the functionality of the email account notwithstanding that the event has occurred.”


Reclaiming Discarded Solid State Devices
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130212427

Solid state devices, which allow for non-volatile data storage, are finding increased applications in electronics. Electronics with solid state devices are often thrown away because of wear or once an owner feels the device is obsolete. Left unchecked, electronic waste in landfills can build up to toxic levels and create a public health hazard. However, current recycling methods are expensive and destroy most useful components of a solid state device, which could be reused.

This patent application, filed with the USPTO by IBM, would protect a method of recycling solid state devices for use in other applications. Solid state electronic devices could be harvested and connected to a testing device that determines performance parameters. Based on the performance analysis, the testing device will indicate whether the solid state device has any reuse applications. The system also provides for improving the solid state device’s operating capacity for its intended reuse.

Claim 1 of this patent application would protect:

“A method of determining an application for reusing a discarded electronic device, said method comprising the steps of: loading a discarded electronic device on a tester and testing said discarded electronic device for at least one performance parameter; determining, employing a computer device, a combination of an application that said tested discarded electronic device can be employed for, and a device operating method that enhances at least one aspect of performance of said tested discarded electronic device during use for said application; and providing an output including said tested discarded electronic device as a reclaimed electronic device and information identifying said combination.”

Review Timelines for Ownership Lifecycle Experience
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130212039

The use of user reviews in online shopping has increased as online stores try to use testimonials to encourage browsers to purchase popular items. These reviews allow shoppers to make more informed buying decisions as well. However, users might enter reviews at different points after the purchase, either immediately or after the product or service has been used for some time. User review interfaces are not optimized to help browsers identify useful information at different points of the good’s service life.

IBM has filed this patent application with the USPTO to protect a new user review interface that provides a timeline of reviews. In this way, users can see how other customers felt about a good or service after a certain period of use. Customers could also browse chronologically ranked ratings for items, which may indicate the length of service life for a particular product.

Claim 1 of this patent application is seeking legal protections for:

“A computer program product, comprising: a computer readable storage medium to store a computer readable program, wherein the computer readable program, when executed by a processor within a computer, causes the computer to perform operations for managing consumer reviews, the operations comprising: presenting a review interface on a display device; and plotting, for each user, an aggregate set of user reviews corresponding to a product or a service in a timeline of the review interface, wherein the aggregate set of user reviews for a user comprises a plurality of user reviews at different times for the product or the service; and organizing the aggregate set of user reviews in the timeline by an event date of each of the plurality of user reviews according to a lifecycle of the product or the service for each user.”


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