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Google, Microsoft and Yahoo all recently filed new search-related patents. But so did IBM, Phillips and Xerox. Nathan Weinberg comments:

The most interesting one? Easily IBM’s filing for “System and method for dynamically optimizing a banner advertisement to counter competing advertisements“. What the system does is analyze a page and detect ads. Then it matches those ads against a database of the client’s competitor’s ads, and reformats the client’s ad to better compete against those ads. Brilliant!

He adds:

If IBM is planning on getting into the online ad game (and this patent is a big hint), this is exactly the million dollar idea any company needs to succeed.

Interesting. IBM's work on search was recently described in a NY Times article (free subscription required).

Source: IBM To Enter the Online Ad Market? (GOOG, IBM)