After filing for it nearly 10 years ago (in April 2001), Google has been granted US Patent 7,912,915, which is titled "Systems and methods for enticing users to access a web site." The patent lists Google co-founder Sergey Brin as the inventor of the feature, which is now known as Google Doodles - the custom logos that the company has been putting on its home page to mark special occasions since the year 2000.
Here's the patent's abstract:
A system provides a periodically changing story line and/or a special event company logo to entice users to access a web page. For the story line, the system may receive objects that tell a story according to the story line and successively provide the objects on the web page for predetermined or random amounts of time. For the special event company logo, the system may modify a standard company logo for a special event to create a special event logo, associate one or more search terms with the special event logo, and upload the special event logo to the web page. The system may then receive a user selection of the special event logo and provide search results relating to the special event.
We're having a bit of trouble understanding how Google was granted this patent, but then again the US Patent system is in complete disarray. What is even harder to grasp is how Google will possibly enforce this patent or what it gains from having the IP rights to changing a company logo for special events.
Here are some recent "doodles" as seen on Google's homepage:
Thomas Edison's Birthday Doodle
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Day Doodle