Google has been awarded a patent for search engines to display “visual cues” alongside results that the engine deems relevant. In the patent application, filed way back in 2003, the company has noted that their search engine algorithm may determine the relevancy of particular results based on their click-through rates besides several other parameters and may choose to display a visual cue – a thumbnail – beside the result in order to make it easier for the user to find the particular result.
Google has elaborated on the application using an example search for “Stanford“. The result page, shown below, displays a thumbnail of the Stanford.edu website beside the link and notes this as a visual cue. The patent is however not specific to website screenshots and could hence possibly include other forms of visual cues like images, logos,etc.
Depending on how this is interpreted, Bing could be at risk here. Like Google, Bing too makes use of images alongside results for certain results. Here is an example screenshot of search results for “PGA Tour” on Bing as well as Google.
Of course, one may argue that the logo in this case is displayed alongside the realtime results and not against the PGA website. But then, this is a grey area that can still be debated. What do you think? Has Google got one more patent to potentially sue Microsoft?