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Google acquires Cuil's remaining patent applications

The last seven pending patent applications of the defunct Google challenger focus mostly on search interfaces.

Google has acquired the final pending patent applications for Cuil, a defunct search engine once touted as a Google challenger.

Cuil's last seven pending patents were acquired by Google with an execution date of February 4, 2011, according to a blog post at SEO By The Sea, but weren't recorded at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office until last week. The record reportedly does not reveal the financial terms of the transfer, but SEO By The Sea notes that Cuil co-founder Anna Patterson returned to Google in 2010.

The patents focus mostly on search interfaces, such as presenting multiple tabs for query terms, different types of dropdowns, and the ability to refine searches based on related aspects, according to the blog report.

Launched in 2008, Cuil was developed and run by Patterson and her husband, Stanford professor Tom Costello. The pair pitched the search engine as bigger, faster, and better than Google's search engine.

The most important difference between Cuil and Google was its ranking system. Rather than assigning priority to pages based on inbound links as Google does ("Pagerank"), Cuil analyzed the content of Web pages to divine their relevance to a search query. In other words, Cuil results were automatically categorized.

However, the launch did not go well; users criticized the search engine, calling results incomplete, weird, and missing. The effort eventually closed up shop in September 2010, before Patterson's return to Google.