Google has been awarded a patent on advertisements targeted by location, which bodes badly for any competitor without its own patent stack.
The patent, which was filed in 2004 and awarded last week (and spotted by Venture Beat), covers "determining and/or using location information in an ad system". It seems pretty comprehensive since it covers the selection of an advertisement based on the location of the viewer, and the monitoring of the user's location to judge the subsequent impact of the ad.
The basic premise is that a computer should be able to decide if it is currently located within the area targeted by the advertiser, and only display the advert if that is the case. While mobile phones might seem the obvious target for such a technology, Google seems more interested in local services for local people:
"The [existing] Google keyword ad server allows advertisers to specify one or more countries in which their ad may be served ... however, many businesses have only a regional or local reach. For example, a restaurant may want to target ads only to potential customers within a 30 minute drive. A dry cleaner may want to target ads only to potential customers in the same town."
The desktop nature of the patent is also clear in discussions about how advertisements can be displayed in web-browsers and some interesting odds and ends about how the location of the user can be established - IP lookup, dial-up area codes or even "inferred from a regional term (eg, hoagie, hero, grinder, sub) entered by the user".
None of this excludes mobile users from the patent, though Apple and Opera (both of whom have also recently invested in mobile advertising) will be crawling over the details as they start trying to extract value from mobility, with location-specific adverts the obvious place to start. ®