IBM Granted Patent for… Dict.?

Two days ago, according to records in the United States Patent Office, IBM [International Business Machines / Inclusion body myositis / Integrated Bituminous Mining / International Brotherhood of Magicians / Interacting boson model / Ibm (town)] was granted USP [United States patent / United States Pharmacopeia / University of the South Pacific / University of the Sciences in Philadelphia / Unique selling proposition] 7,640,233. The nub of the patent is described in the abstract:

The databases each define shorthand terms with one or more longhand terms. A shorthand term is targeted within a text message, and the databases are searched for corresponding longhand terms. The longhand terms are selected for display according to factors such as user preferences, the identities of participants to the text communication, and the context of the text message. Abbreviations, shorthand, and other jargon sent by one user is thereby interpreted. For example, one of the longhand terms may be substituted in-line with the text message. Alternatively, all matches for the shorthand term found in the databases may be listed in descending order according to relevancy.

Some might say, “WTF?” [World Taekwondo Federation / Workforce Training Fund / Wisconsin Tourism Federation / Wednesday Thursday Friday / World Trade Federation] Can it be that they’ve given a patent for an electronic dictionary of abbreviations? Understandably, many folk would find it onerous to click (twice!) to reach a site such as the Acronym Finder, where three quarters of a million definitions are stored for abbreviations, initials and acronyms. When it comes to pass in solid form this will be clearly a LSD [Least Significant Difference / Limited Slip Differential / Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds / Law Student Division / Louisiana School for the Deaf / Labour Saving Device].

NB Note, however, that the means for determining from the context which abbreviation is most relevant is not described in the patent, except to suggest in one instance that users do the work of establishing the variable meanings and contexts themselves:

The recipient may customize her own personal database to include different entries for different senders. For example, the recipient may setup her system so that, “when George sends me `OMW,` it will be replaced with “oh my word,” and “when Mary sends `OMW,` it will be replaced with `on my way.`

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