WO2001001315A1 - Method and system for linking pooled purchasers with sellers - Google Patents

Method and system for linking pooled purchasers with sellers Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2001001315A1
WO2001001315A1 PCT/US2000/017974 US0017974W WO0101315A1 WO 2001001315 A1 WO2001001315 A1 WO 2001001315A1 US 0017974 W US0017974 W US 0017974W WO 0101315 A1 WO0101315 A1 WO 0101315A1
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WO
WIPO (PCT)
Prior art keywords
potential
purchaser
information
purchasers
service
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/US2000/017974
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Thomas E. Coleman
Original Assignee
Ipool Corporation
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date
Priority to US34382199A priority Critical
Priority to US09/343,821 priority
Application filed by Ipool Corporation filed Critical Ipool Corporation
Publication of WO2001001315A1 publication Critical patent/WO2001001315A1/en

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    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q30/00Commerce, e.g. shopping or e-commerce
    • G06Q30/06Buying, selling or leasing transactions

Abstract

The invention relates to methods and systems connected to a computer network (14) for aggregating a number of potential purchasers (12) for linking to one or more sellers of goods or services, as well as delivering targeted commercial messages to potential purchasers. One embodiment of the invention provides for compiling in a host computer system (11) a purchaser profile for inclusion in a pool of purchaser profiles. The invention provides to potential sellers aggregated purchaser profiles of potential purchasers who have expressed an interest in the seller's goods and services. Potential sellers may accept the aggregated purchasers. The invention provides advertisers the capability to selectively advertise to those potential purchasers who fit certain profiles that indicate that the potential purchasers may be interested in a specific good or service.

Description

-1- Title: Method and System For Linking Pooled Purchasers with Sellers

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 1. Field of the Invention

This invention relates to pooling and advertising methods and systems for linking purchasers

with sellers of goods or services, as well as targeted commercial messaging. More particularly, this

invention relates to methods and systems for aggregating a number of potential purchasers for linking to one or more sellers of goods or services, as well as delivering targeted commercial messages to

potential purchasers. The methods and systems may be implemented in computer hardware and

software. 2. Background Information

Typical sales strategies involve mass-marketing to the consumers. Advertisers, for instance, use direct mailing to large groups of individuals, television broadcast advertising, and telemarketing to

advertise and sell goods and services. Such mass advertising methods can be expensive and

ineffective due to the lack of a targeted approach ~ only a fraction of the persons reached by such

mass marketing will be interested in most offerings. Thus, the cost per acquired purchaser or

customer is high.

Because advertisers know that only a small percentage of the mass-market audience has a real interest in the product or service being sold, they use entertainment value and content to attract

the attention of the more promising potential purchasers. Thus, advertisers may place their

advertisements in certain television shows, radio programs, or magazines where they feel a substantial portion of their most likely potential purchasers will see their advertisement. Such advertising -2- strategies may nevertheless be both over-inclusive and under-inclusive, because the advertisements

will reach many uninterested people and will miss many potential purchasers.

Information on consumers or potential purchasers can be very important to sellers of goods

and services. Telemarketers and advertisers alike benefit from having detailed information about

buying interests or capacities of potential purchasers of goods or services. If an advertiser, for

instance, can identify and selectively advertise to those potential purchasers who fit a profile of

probable purchasers of the advertiser's goods or services, the advertiser can reduce advertising costs

by advertising directly to those potential purchasers. In other words, if the advertiser has both

information about potential purchasers and more targeted access for its messages, it can achieve more

purchasers / customers for the same amount of money. Useful demographic and financial information

for such a strategy includes a potential purchaser's financial status, age, residence, family size /

configuration, and interests in various goods and services.

If an advertiser has a large amount of demographic and financial information about a potential

purchaser, the advertiser can potentially selectively market to the more promising purchasers for a

decreased expense per sales transaction. The money saved by the advertiser can, potentially, be used

to reduce the price of the good or service to the purchaser. Instead of advertising via radio or

television broadcasts to the masses of potential purchasers, the advertiser can concentrate on specific

potential purchasers who may be likely to buy a specific good or service and offer favorable pricing.

Although advertisers prefer to have detailed information about potential purchasers of goods

or services, the typical potential purchaser would prefer to keep his or her personal and financial

information private. There can be a trade-off, therefore, between achieving greater advertising power

for an advertiser or seller of goods or services, and protecting the privacy of potential purchasers.

Consumers and potential purchasers are concerned about keeping personal and financial information -3- from becoming widely disseminated, both because of privacy concerns and to avoid unwanted

solicitation letters and advertisements. These privacy concerns have increased in recent years with the emergence of the "World Wide Web" ("Web") as a widespread source of data.

U.S. Patent No. 5, 794,210 to Goldhaber et al. (the Goldhaber patent) discloses an "attention brokerage" method, which is the "business of brokering the buying and selling of the 'attention' of

users." The Goldhaber method allows "users to choose whether they will view an ad or other

negatively priced information and receive associated compensation." Goldhaber patent, Abstract.

Although the Goldhaber patent does disclose a method that creates an incentive for individual potential purchasers to view advertisements, it does not teach pooling of purchasing power to in association

with providing updated and detailed information about potential purchasers to the advertiser or marketer of the goods or service. Other systems exist for on-line sales or auctions of goods or services, but these systems do not aggregate potential purchasers for linking to sellers.

A need exists for a new method and system that enables more efficient, less costly transactions

between potential purchasers and sellers of goods or services, and allows sellers of goods and

services to decrease their advertising costs. In particular, a method and system for reducing

advertising costs per sales transaction is needed. Similarly, a method and system for aggregating a pool of purchasers for linking to sellers is needed. Finally, a need exists for a method and system for

targeted delivery of commercial messages.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

One embodiment of the invention is a method for compiling in a host computer system a purchaser profile for inclusion in a pool of purchaser profiles. The method comprises collecting in an electronic file in the host computer system identification and residence location information for at least one potential purchaser, and registering the at least one potential purchaser with the host computer -4- system, collecting in the electronic file profile information provided by the at least one potential

purchaser, effecting for the at least one potential purchaser one or more purchase transactions and

collecting resulting transaction information in the electronic file, and preparing from at least the information above a profile for the at least one potential purchaser that is updated regularly. In one

embodiment, this method may further comprise assembling a plurality of potential purchaser profiles for presentation to a potential seller of goods or services applicable to a substantial portion of the

plurality of potential purchasers, and receiving from the potential seller and communicating to the plurality of potential purchasers an offer formulated on the assumption that it will be accepted by a substantial portion of the plurality of potential purchasers and reflecting the resulting economies of

scale. Another embodiment of the invention is a method of aggregating in a host computer system a

pool of potential purchasers to respond to an offer for a group purchase. This method comprises collecting in an electronic file in the host computer system identification and residence location

information for at least one potential purchaser, and registering the at least one potential purchaser with the host computer system, collecting in the electronic file profile information provided by the at

least one potential purchaser, effecting for the at least one potential purchaser one or more purchase transactions and collecting resulting transaction information in the electronic file, assembling a plurality

of potential purchaser profiles for presentation to a potential seller of goods or services applicable to a

substantial portion of the plurality of potential purchasers, and receiving from the potential seller and

communicating to the plurality of potential purchasers an offer formulated on the assumption that it will

be accepted by a substantial portion of the plurality of potential purchasers and reflecting the resulting economies of scale. -5- Another embodiment of the invention is an apparatus for aggregating in a host computer system a pool of potential purchasers to respond to an offer for a group purchase. The apparatus

comprises programs to collect in an electronic file in the host computer system identification and residence location information for at least one potential purchaser, and register the at least one potential purchaser with the host computer system, collect in the electronic file profile information

provided by the at least one potential purchaser, effect for the at least one potential purchaser

one or more purchase transactions and collect resulting transaction information in the electronic file, assemble a plurality of potential purchaser profiles for presentation to a potential seller of goods or services applicable to a substantial portion of the plurality of potential purchasers, and receive from the

potential seller and communicate to the plurality of potential purchasers an offer formulated on the assumption that it will be accepted by a substantial portion of the plurality of potential purchasers and

reflecting the resulting economies of scale.

Another embodiment of the invention is a method for providing to a host computer system a

purchaser profile for inclusion in a pool of purchaser profiles. The method of this embodiment comprises sending to the host computer system identification and residence location information of at

least one potential purchaser, sending to the host computer system profile information of the at least one potential purchaser, transmitting transaction information to the host computer system that results from an effected purchase transaction of the at least one potential purchaser, and receiving from the host computer system a profile for the at least one potential purchaser resulting from the information

from the acts above that is updated regularly. Another embodiment of the invention is a computer-readable medium containing instructions

for compiling in a host computer system a purchaser profile for inclusion in a pool of purchaser profiles, by collecting in an electronic file in the host computer system identification and residence -6- location information for at least one potential purchaser, collecting in the electronic file profile

information provided by the at least one potential purchaser, effecting for the at least one potential

purchaser one or more purchase transactions and collecting resulting transaction information in the

electronic file, and preparing from at least the information from the acts above a profile for the at least

one potential purchaser that is updated regularly.

Another embodiment of the invention is a method of aggregating a pool of potential purchasers

to solicit an offer for a group purchase. In this embodiment, the method comprises assembling in a

host computer information on a group of potential purchasers with known purchaser profiles, soliciting

from at least one potential purchaser an indication of purchase interest for a good or service, and

providing other potential purchasers with access to solicited information for the good or service so that

the other potential purchasers can post an indication of purchase interest in the good or service,

monitoring on a periodic basis a number of potential purchasers who have posted an indication of

purchase interest for the good or service, responsive to the number of potential purchasers who have

posted an indication of purchase interest for the good or service, communicating to at least one seller

of the good or service a set of parameters of the group of potential purchasers who have posted an

indication of purchase interest for the good or service, and soliciting an offer from the at least one

seller of the good or service for a group purchase, and receiving from the seller and communicating to

the plurality of potential purchasers who have posted an indication of purchase interest for the

specified good or service an offer formulated on an assumption that it will be accepted by a substantial

portion of the plurality of potential purchasers and reflecting resulting economies of scale.

Another embodiment of the invention is a method for providing at least one purchaser profile

for inclusion in a pool of purchasers who may solicit an offer for a group purchase. This embodiment

of the invention comprises sending at least one potential purchaser profile to a host computer for -7- inclusion with a group of potential purchasers with known purchaser profiles, sending to a host

computer an indication of purchase interest for a good or service for inclusion in a pool of potential

purchasers so that other potential purchasers can post an indication of purchase interest in the good or service, receiving an offer from at least one seller of the good or service formulated on an assumption that it will be accepted by a substantial portion of the plurality of potential purchasers and reflecting

resulting economies of scale, and communicating to the at least one seller the acceptance of its offer and initiating an exchange of payment to the seller and delivery by the seller.

Another embodiment of the invention is an apparatus for aggregating a pool of potential purchasers to solicit an offer for a group purchase. The apparatus comprises programs to assemble in

a host computer information on a group of potential purchasers with known purchaser profiles, solicit from at least one potential purchaser an indication of purchase interest for a good or service, and provide other potential purchasers with access to solicited information for the good or service so that the other potential purchasers can post an indication of purchase interest in the good or service,

monitor on a periodic basis a number of potential purchasers who have posted an indication of purchase interest for the good or service, responsive to the number of potential purchasers who have

posted an indication of purchase interest for the good or service, communicate to at least one seller of

the good or service a set of parameters of the group of potential purchasers who have posted an

indication of purchase interest for the good or service, and solicit an offer from the at least one seller

of the good or service for a group purchase, and receive from the seller and communicate to the

plurality of potential purchasers who have posted an indication of purchase interest for the specified good or service an offer formulated on an assumption that it will be accepted by a substantial portion

of the plurality of potential purchasers and reflecting resulting economies of scale. Yet another embodiment of the invention is a computer-readable medium containing instructions for aggregating a pool of purchasers to solicit an offer for a group purchase, by assembling

in a host computer information on a group of potential purchasers with known purchaser profiles, soliciting from at least one potential purchaser an indication of purchase interest for a good or service,

and providing other potential purchasers with access to solicited information for the good or service so

that the other potential purchasers can post an indication of purchase interest in the good or service, monitoring on a periodic basis a number of potential purchasers who have posted an indication of purchase interest for the good or service, responsive to the number of potential purchasers who have posted an indication of purchase interest for the good or service, communicating to at least one seller

of the good or service a set of parameters of the group of potential purchasers who have posted an indication of purchase interest for the good or service, and soliciting an offer from the at least one seller of the good or service for a group purchase, and receiving from the seller and communicating to

the plurality of potential purchasers who have posted an indication of purchase interest for the specified good or service an offer formulated on an assumption that it will be accepted by a substantial

portion of the plurality of potential purchasers and reflecting resulting economies of scale. The above embodiments of the invention provide numerous advantages. These embodiments provide for the profiling of information on potential purchases so that such information may be

presented in a meaningful form to sellers of goods or services. These embodiments also allow

potential purchasers to pool their purchasing power together in order to receive deals with advantageous terms from sellers of goods or services. These embodiments also provide sellers with

an easy way to "link up" with potential purchasers who are interested in the sellers' goods or services.

Finally, although there are other advantages to these embodiments which are not recited immediately -9- above, one further advantage is that these embodiments save sellers of goods or services advertising costs.

Another embodiment of the invention is a method for delivery of targeted commercial

messages. The method comprises assembling a plurality of potential purchaser profiles in an electronic file for presentation to at least one potential advertiser of goods or services applicable to a substantial

portion of the plurality of potential purchasers, developing commercial message selection criteria for selecting from the potential purchasers those suited to receive a specified commercial message

contained in a set of commercial messages, applying the commercial message selection criteria to the purchaser profiles to identify the potential purchasers suited to receive specified commercial messages, and presenting over a data network to a potential purchaser identified as suited, the specified commercial messages.

Another embodiment of the invention is a method for delivery of targeted commercial

messages. This embodiment comprises assembling a plurality of potential purchaser profiles for

presentation to at least one potential advertiser of goods or services applicable to a substantial portion

of the plurality of potential purchasers, developing commercial message selection criteria for selecting

from the potential purchasers those suited to receive a specified commercial message contained in a

set of commercial messages, applying the commercial message selection criteria to the purchaser

profiles to identify the potential purchasers suited to receive specified commercial messages, and presenting to a purchaser display unit of a potential purchaser identified as suited, the specified

commercial messages. Yet another embodiment of the invention is an apparatus for delivery of targeted commercial messages. The apparatus comprises programs to assemble a plurality of potential purchaser profiles in an electronic file for presentation to at least one potential advertiser of goods or services applicable -10- to a substantial portion of the plurality of potential purchasers, develop commercial message selection criteria for selecting from the potential purchasers those suited to receive a specified commercial message contained in a set of commercial messages, apply the commercial message selection criteria to the purchaser profiles to identify the potential purchasers suited to receive specified commercial

messages, and present over a data network to a potential purchaser identified as suited, the specified commercial messages.

The above targeted commercial messages embodiments of the invention provide numerous

advantages over traditional advertising. Using these embodiments of the invention, advertisers can selectively advertise to those potential purchasers who fit certain profiles that indicate that the potential

purchasers may be interested in the specific good or service. Advertisers can thus save money and some or all of the savings may be passed on to the potential purchasers.

These and other objects and advantages of the present invention will become apparent with

reference to the drawings, the description of the preferred embodiment, and the appended claims.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Figure 1 is a block diagram overview a client-server system in which the present invention

functions;

Figure 2 is a graph illustrating the value of information to an advertiser or potential purchaser;

Figure 3 is a block diagram that shows a number of features of the present invention;

Figure 4 is a flow chart illustrating the gathering of information from potential purchasers and

the verification and updating of the potential purchaser's profile; Figure 5 is a representative Web site page that may be used to gather certain information from

a potential purchaser;

Figure 6a is a depiction of a low value information record; -11- Figure 6b is a depiction of a medium value information record;

Figure 6c is a depiction of a high value information record;

Figure 7a is a first flow chart of a "show me the deal" embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 7b is a second flow chart of a "show me the deal" embodiment of the present invention; Figure 8 is a flow chart of a "make the deal" embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 9 is a depiction of the components for a targeted commercial message embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 10 illustrates the transmission of commercial messages over a communication path; and Figure 11 illustrates one embodiment of a targeted commercial messages embodiment of the

invention. DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The teachings of the present invention are applicable to many different types of computer

networks and may also be used, for instance, in conjunction with direct on-line connections to

databases. As will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art, while the following discussion sets forth various preferred implementations of the methods and systems of the present invention, these

implementations are not intended to be restrictive of the appended claims, nor are they intended to

imply that the claimed invention has limited applicability to one type of computer network. In this

regard, the teachings of the present invention are equally applicable for use in Local Area Networks

("LANs") of all types, Wide Area Networks ("WANs"), private networks, and public networks including the Internet and the Web. While the principles underlying the Internet and the Web are

described in some detail below in connection with various aspects of the present invention, this discussion is provided for descriptive purposes only and is not intended to imply any limiting aspects to the broadly claimed methods and systems of the present invention. -12- The accompanying Figures depict embodiments of the systems and methods of the present

invention, and features and components thereof. With regard to references in this specification to computers, the computers may be any standard computer including standard attachments and

components thereof (e.g., a disk drive, hard drive, CD player or network server that communicates with a CPU and main memory, a sound board, a keyboard and mouse, and a monitor). The

processor of the CPU in the computer may be any conventional general purpose single- or multi-chip

microprocessor such as a Pentium® processor, a Pentium® Pro processor, a 8051 processor, a MIPS® processor, a Power PC® processor, or an ALPHA® processor. In addition, the processor may be any conventional special purpose processor such as a digital signal processor or a graphics processor. The microprocessor may have conventional address lines, conventional data lines, and one

or more conventional control lines. With regard to references to software, the software may be standard software used by those skilled in the art or may be coded in any standard programming

language to accomplish the tasks detailed below.

A. General Overview of System Hardware

Figure 1 is a block diagram illustration of the environment of one embodiment of the present

invention, which is a computer network based on a client-server model. The network comprises one or more servers 10 which are accessible by one or more clients 12, such as personal computers. For simplicity, Figure 1 shows only one server 10 and two clients 12. The server 10 operates an

electronic file 11 to carry out the functions of the invention. The term "electronic file" will be used throughout this specification in a general sense to refer to any and all database or program files that

may exist on the one or more servers 10. Figure 1 shows this electronic file 11 in phantom because it may encompass all of the files on the server 10 or only a portion thereof. In one embodiment, the electronic file 11 may be a Web site. The server 10 depicted in Figure 1 may comprise more than one server networked together, or a single server 10 as depicted. The servers 10 communicate with the clients 12 over a communication path 14, which may be a Local Area Network (LAN), Wide

Area Network (WAN), direct dial connection, the Internet, or other suitable telecommunications path.

In one embodiment, for instance, the clients 12 may be computers, while in another embodiment, the clients 12 may be people who interact with the server 10 over a communication path 14.

The communication path 14 as depicted in Figure 1 may be the Internet. The Internet is a collection of computer networks that allows computer users to share files and other computer resources. Each computer connected to the Internet has a unique address whose format is defined by

the Internet Protocol ("TCP/IP"). The system as depicted in Figure 1 may therefore operate over the "World Wide Web" ("Web"), which is that collection of servers on the Internet that utilize the Hypertext Transfer Protocol ("HTTP"). HTTP is a known application protocol that provides users access to resources, which may be information in different formats such as text, graphics, images,

sound, video, Hypertext Markup Language ("HTML"), as well as programs. HTML is a standard

page description language which provides basic document formatting and allows the developer to

specify "links" to other servers and files. Links may be specified via a Uniform Resource Locator

("URL"). Upon specification of a link by the user, the client makes a TCP/IP request to a Web server and receives information, which may be another "Web page" that is formatted according to

HTML, from a server that was specified in the requested URL. The information returned to the client may be generated in whole or in part by a program that executes on the server 10. Such programs

are typically Common-Gateway-Interface scripts ("CGI scripts") and can be written using known programming languages or methods that the server supports, such as PERL or C++. Such programs

may also be custom application logic that is loaded into the Web server software itself, in which case the Web server software will contain embedded custom logic that enables the Web server to generate -14- content. A suitable network protocol, such as the TCP/TP protocol, may therefore be used for the communications over communication path 14.

The server 10 may comprise Web servers and application servers, and may be any computer known to those skilled in the art. As shown in Figure 1, the server 10 may contain a communications interface 16, through which communications over the communication path 14 occur, a CPU 18, a database 20, and a set of programs 22, as well as other standard components known to those skilled

in the art. The database 20 may be used to store the information identified below which may be used in the present invention, and the database 20 may reside in one or more servers 10. Similarly, the set of programs 22 may be used to perform the functions of the present invention as described below, and

the set of programs 22 may reside in one or more servers 10. The set of programs 22 may process

requests and responses from the clients 12, send the proper information to the clients 12, and perform processes on the server 10. If the Internet is used within an embodiment of the invention, these

programs 22 may be CGI scripts.

As noted above, the clients 12 may be any standard computer known to those skilled in the

art, and may be connected to communication path 14. The client 12 may comprise a processor or

CPU and main memory, an input / output interface for communicating with various databases, files,

programs, and networks, and one or more storage devices, such as disk drive devices or CD ROM devices. The client 12 may also have a monitor or other screen device, a printer or other output device, and in input device such as a keyboard. As is well known in the art, the computer 12

executes programs stored on a data storage medium, which may be either a memory system of the client 12 or a persistent storage device, such as a disk or CD ROM system, so as to carry out the functions of the present invention. The clients 12 shown in Figure 1 may contain browsers 24, which allow the user of the client 12 to communicate with one or more servers 10 and view information -15- received over the Web. The scope of the invention, however, is not limited to Web applications and

computers as the clients 12. In one embodiment, for instance, the term "client" may be used to refer to a computer operated by an individual person who sends and receives information over the communication path 14 to communicate with the server 10.

The following discussion details the functions and acts of the programs 22 and electronic file 1 1 on the server 10 or the functions of software on the clients 12 to perform the current invention. A

"system proprietor" may control the operation of the electronic file 11 on the server 10 to control the flow of information between potential purchasers (using clients 12) and sellers of goods or services.

Information may be gathered through standard user interface software known to those skilled in the art, including programs typically used for the creation of user interfaces for soliciting and receiving

information for Web applications. Such programs may include standard error messages or user

prompts which aid in the solicitation or presentation of information. The present invention, however,

may be used in embodiments other than those that involve the Web as a communication path 14.

B. Operation of the Invention

The operation of the systems and methods of the present invention are illustrated in Figures 3- 11. As an introduction, Figure 2 illustrates the value of certain types of personal profile information to

the present invention. Figure 2 is a chart that shows that as the amount of demographic, financial, and other information about a potential purchaser increases, the value of that information to a seller also increases. The y-axis indicates that as the quality or verifiability of the information increases, so does

the value to a seller. If profiles of information about potential purchasers can be aggregated, the value

of this information also increases because a seller can offer a certain deal to the group of potential

purchasers based on the assumption that a generally predictable number of them will buy the offered good or service. The prediction will be more or less reliable, based on the available information about -16- the potential purchasers and whether such information has been verified or updated so that the information may be considered reliable. 1. General Overview

Figure 3 shows the general operation of the invention, which will be briefly described with reference to Figure 3 and then more fully described below with reference to Figures 4-11. Figure 3

illustrates an electronic file 1 1, which may reside in the server 10, controlling the flow of information between potential purchasers and sellers of goods or services. As stated above, a system proprietor may operate the electronic file 11 , which, in one embodiment, may take the form of a Web site. Potential purchasers and sellers of goods or services may then interact with the electronic file 1 1 to

form deals or exchange information. The system proprietor may ultimately control the flow of

information between potential purchasers and sellers, and the system proprietor may have contractual arrangements with the potential purchasers and/or sellers for purposes of maintaining the privacy of

information.

Figure 3 shows three broad areas within the electronic file 11: a registration area 401, a

pooling area 403, and a seller offers and advertising area 405. Certain acts or bundles of information

are depicted in Figure 3 below each of these three areas, and there are spaces between the three areas where other acts may occur. In general, potential purchasers provide information about themselves to register with the system proprietor and sign up for deals, sellers of goods or services post offers on the electronic file 11 , and advertisers post advertisements on the electronic file 11.

Throughout this specification, a certain distinction will be made between sellers and advertisers. The term "seller" will be used to refer to a party that posts definite terms for an offer to

sell goods and services on the electronic file 11. The term "advertiser," on the other hand, will be used to refer to a party that advertises in the general sense, such that any offer conveyed through an -17- advertisement cannot be immediately accepted through the electronic file 11 or signed up for through the electronic file 11. An advertisement, therefore, will be used to refer to a more traditional broadcast advertisement, such as one using television, radio, or even email. An offer for sale by a seller will be used to refer to an offer posted on the electronic file 1 1 which a potential purchaser may

sign up for (which may be subject to threshold conditions set by the seller) through the electronic file 11 operated by the system proprietor.

Throughout this specification, a "potential purchaser" refers to any person who wishes to sign up for a deal or register with the party operating the electronic file 11 or Web site. A potential purchaser may be either a guest of the electronic file 11 , a user, or a registered user. A "registered

user" is a potential purchaser who has completed the registration process, which involves providing

certain information about themselves, to enroll with the system proprietor. A "user" is a person who only creates a user name and password, but provides no useful information about themselves, such as

demographic information, to register as a registered user. A "guest" is a potential purchaser who has

not completed the registration process, but who is still allowed certain browsing privileges on the electronic file 1 1. A guest may be required to provide certain information about themselves (and

hence become a registered user) in order to sign up for a deal offered by a seller of goods or services.

The left side of Figure 3 depicts potential purchasers providing information to the electronic

file 11 to register with the system proprietor. Potential purchasers may provide information about

themselves through a registration filter 407 in the electronic file 1 1. Because users and guests may, in one embodiment, sign up for deals, the registration filter 407 may allow users and guests to sign up for deals without already being registered users. In another embodiment, a potential purchaser must

either be a registered user to sign up for a deal or, if the potential purchaser is a user or a guest, provide registration information to become a registered user in order to sign up for a deal. In this -18- embodiment, the electronic file 11 has a mechanism for verifying a potential purchaser's identify if he or she returns to the electronic file 1 1 for future purchasers. In the registration process, a potential purchaser may have to provide certain required information 409 in order to register with the system proprietor or sign up for a deal. Aside from this required information 409, different levels of information 411, 413, 415 may be provided by the potential purchaser if desired. The information sought by each level differs in invasiveness, and certain offers by sellers require information of a certain level of invasiveness. A profile containing the information gathered from each potential purchaser is

formed in the electronic file 11 after a potential purchaser provides such information.

After a potential purchaser provides the information in column 401 to register with the system,

the information may be updated in real time (numeral 417 in Figure 3), and the information by may

verified (numeral 419 in Figure 3) by contacting outside sources of information. These processes will

be described in more detail below.

Column 403 (pooling) in Figure 3 depicts the organization and forms that profiles of potential

purchasers may take. Block 421 depicts the profiles of all potential purchasers that are registered users with the system proprietor, which may also include profiles for those potential purchasers who

have signed up for deals but have remained guests of the system proprietor. Block 423 depicts the

scaling and reporting features that may be offered by the system proprietor. The scaling and reporting features 423 allow individual registered users to view their individual information and to determine how they relate to other registered users. The scaling and reporting features 423 may also allow individual

registered users to determine how their individual information, such as their financial status, compares to a recommendation from an expert as to approximately how that information should appear for a person in the demographic category of the particular registered user. -19- Blocks 425, 427, and 429 illustrate different groups of profiles of potential purchasers that may be formed by the system proprietor or by potential purchasers interacting with the electronic file

11. Each of these groups will be discussed in greater detail below. Group 425 is a group that the system proprietor organizes without interaction from potential purchasers. Group 427 is a group

aggregated by the Web site with interaction from potential purchasers and in response to an offer from a seller. Group 429 is a group aggregated by the Web site with interaction from potential purchasers, but not in response to an offer from a seller.

Column 405 illustrates the interaction between the sellers of goods and the electronic file 1 1, as well as the interaction between advertisers and the electronic file 1 1. Sellers of goods can make

certain offers to potential purchasers through the electronic file 11. Three types of offers are depicted in Figure 3: standing offers 431, qualified individual offers 433, and qualified group offers 435. Each

type of offer may be either entered in the electronic file 11 by the system proprietor (after contact with

a seller) or by an individual seller posting an offer directly to the electronic file 1 1. A qualified group

offer 435, which may take different forms (two of which are listed as numerals 435a and 435b), is generally an offer that may be accepted only if a threshold number of potential purchasers sign up to accept the offer. The following sections of this specification will more fully describe a qualified group

offer 435.

A standing offer 431 is an offer that is posted in the electronic file 1 1 which may be accepted

by any individual potential purchaser. The seller of a good or service for a standing offer 431,

therefore, sets no particular terms for the offer. A qualified individual offer 433 is an offer which may be accepted by an individual potential purchaser, but only if that individual potential purchaser fulfills

certain profile requirements of the seller. For instance, in order to accept a qualified individual offer 433, it may be necessary for a potential purchaser to have a certain minimum income. Figures 7 and 8 -20- also indicate (at blocks 204 and 304 respectively) a current deal embodiment, which refers to either a standing offer (numeral 431 in Figure 3) or a qualified individual offer (numeral 433 in Figure 3). A

current deal may be a deal posted in the electronic file 1 1 for which a single potential purchaser may sign up, with the deal not being dependent on other potential purchasers signing up for the deal. If the

terms of the deal are acceptable to the potential purchaser, the potential purchaser may sign up for the

deal and certain segments of the profile for that potential purchaser may be provided to the seller of the good or service to close the deal, subject to any profiles requirements set by the seller of the

goods or services (such as for a qualified individual offer 433).

Figure 3 also depicts a number of advertisements 437, 439, 441 that may be posted to the electronic file 11 by advertisers. Advertisement N (numeral 441) represents the possibility that any

number of advertisements may be posted in the electronic file 11. Through the targeted commercial

messages feature of the invention, which will be described in more detail below, these advertisements

437, 439, 441 may be presented to only certain potential purchasers who meet requirements set by the advertiser. In one embodiment of the targeted commercial messages embodiment of the invention,

profile information will be provided to advertisers only at the request of a registered user.

The area between column 403 and column 405 in Figure 3 represents the linking ability 450 of

the present invention. Linking ability 450 refers to the process by which profile information of potential purchasers is linked with or provided to sellers or advertisers. In other words, profile information of registered users is not automatically provided to sellers or advertisers, but instead is

only provided to sellers or advertisers if certain conditions are met. Although information concerning

offers (numerals 431, 433, and 435) is generally available to potential purchasers through the electronic file 11 , it is possible that an offer may only be accepted by certain qualified individual potential purchasers or by a group of potential purchasers. Linking ability 450, therefore, refers to the -21- ability of the electronic file 11 to provide certain potential purchaser profile information to sellers or advertisers (Figure 3 depicts such information in transfer as block 455), and to the ability of the electronic file 11 to provide offer information to the potential purchasers.

Figure 3 also depicts a delivery filter 460 adjacent the advertisements 437, 439, 441. This delivery filter 460 provides for a feature of the invention in one embodiment that allows the

advertisements 437, 439, 441 to be presented to certain targeted potential purchasers. Filter 470 is

associated with the profiles of potential purchasers and is present in Figure 3 to represent the possibility that certain information of potential purchasers may be provided to sellers or advertisers. A

certain amount of information in the profiles may be stripped by the filter 470 prior to transmission to

the sellers or advertisers, however, so that the sellers or advertisers cannot determine the identity of

the potential purchasers.

The following sections detail the functions and features of the invention presented above in reference to Figure 3 in greater detail.

2. Gathering Information from Potential Purchasers

In order to present information on potential purchasers to sellers, the information may be

gathered in the electronic file 1 1 through any variety of methods known to those skilled in the art. The

information gathered from the potential purchasers will, in one embodiment, remain confidential with

the system proprietor unless and until a potential purchaser desires that the information be provided to sellers or advertisers of goods or services. In this embodiment, a potential purchaser may register with the system proprietor while still maintaining the confidentiality of private information without

worrying about disclosing private information to sellers. Figure 4 illustrates one procedure for gathering information from a potential purchaser. Although Figure 4 is written with reference to one individual potential purchaser, the procedure may be followed to gather information from any variety of potential purchasers, and the information may be gathered through server-client interaction as discussed above. In particular, the information may be collected using the Web, and the following

discussion assumes that the Web will be the method used to gather the information, although, as noted above, other methods and systems may also be used.

In an embodiment where the server 10 operates a Web site (referred to as an electronic file 11 in the remainder of this section) for the operation of the invention, the potential purchaser may be

prompted one or more times while using the electronic file 11 to enter information about himself or

herself. At block 101 of Figure 4, required information for enrollment in the system of the invention may be solicited and received from a potential purchaser (this required information is depicted in

block 409 of Figure 3). At block 103 of Figure 4, the potential purchaser may be prompted to create

a password. Figure 5 depicts one embodiment of a Web page that may be sent from the server 10 to

a client 12 so that a potential purchaser can enter and transmit required information and a password to register with the system proprietor. As depicted in Figure 5, required information to enroll with the system proprietor may include a user's (or potential purchaser's) name 50, which may consist of the user's first name 51 , middle name 52, and last name 53, the user's address 58 and phone number 60,

and a password 54 for security. As depicted in Figure 5, the potential purchaser may also be

prompted to confirm the password 54, enter information to assist the potential purchaser in remembering the password 54, and enter information on how the potential purchaser heard about the system of the present invention. An account or profile may be established for each potential purchaser

with a unique number and access code (or password) so that the information may be secure. As

noted above, a potential purchaser who completes the registration process is known as a registered

user. -23- After any required information is entered by the potential purchaser as depicted in blocks 101 and 103 of Figure 4, information falling into different levels of usefulness may be solicited and received

from the potential purchaser. Figure 4, in blocks 105, 107, and 109, depicts the solicitation and transmission of information falling into three levels of usefulness. These levels of usefulness also

correspond roughly to the perceived invasiveness of the information requests to the potential

purchaser, with the information of high usefulness being the most invasive to the potential purchaser.

After the required information is solicited and received, in one embodiment the potential purchaser can enter as much or as little of the information depicted in blocks 105, 107, and 109 as desired, although Figure 4 depicts an embodiment where level 1 information (low value information) must be entered to

enroll in the system of the present invention. As depicted in Figure 4, after the potential purchaser enters different levels of information, the potential purchaser may be done with the registration process. As Figure 4 also depicts, the potential purchaser can enter only level 1 information (or, in

one embodiment, only the required information of blocks 101 and 103) to complete the registration

procedure.

Figures 6a, 6b, and 6c depict the types of information that may fall into the different levels of usefulness (or invasiveness). Some of the information depicted in Figures 6a, 6b, and 6c may also

overlap with some of the required information of block 101 of Figure 4, although these information fields could be automatically filled in to speed the registration process, or the potential purchaser could

simply not be prompted to enter this information a second time. Figure 6a shows level 1 information

70, which can include the potential purchaser's address 72, contact information 74, profile identity 76, and household relations 78. The potential purchaser's address 72 may include one or more addresses, including street addresses, cities, states, area codes, and so forth. The contact information

74 may include the potential purchaser's home phone number, daytime phone number, evening phone -24- number, cellular phone number, fax number, an email address, and the best time to attempt to contact

the potential purchaser. The profile identity 76 may include the potential purchaser's first name,

middle name, last name, and relationship to the individual who is the head of the household. Finally,

the household relations 78 information may include the total number of people in the household, the

head of the household, and information on the number of children, parents, or other relations or

dependents of the head of the household, as well as the names of such people.

Level 2 information 80, as depicted in Figure 6b, may include demographic information 82,

information on the potential purchaser's employer 84, and home information 86. The demographics

information 82 may include the potential purchaser's sex, marital status, and date of birth, as well as

other demographics information. The employer information 84 may include the potential purchaser's employment status, date of hire, position, employer, and employer address. The home information 86

may include the amount of time the potential purchaser has resided at the current address, whether the

potential purchaser owns the home or rents, and the potential purchaser's total monthly rent or

mortgage payment.

Level N information 90 refers to information in a final level of invasiveness, and any number of

levels of information may exist between the level 2 information 80 and the level N information 90.

Level N information 90, as depicted in Figure 6c, may include miscellaneous personal information 92

about the potential purchaser, financial information 94, and income information 96. The miscellaneous

personal information 92 may include such information as the potential purchaser's social security

number and driver's license number, as well as other personal information. The financial information

94 may include the potential purchaser's checking account number, savings account number, and

information about the potential purchaser's bank or banks. The income information 96 may include

the potential purchaser's annual personal gross income, additional personal income, and sources of -25- additional personal income. Numerous other types of information may also be gathered from the

potential purchaser within the scope of the present invention, including the carrier of the potential purchaser's mortgage, the size of the mortgage and monthly mortgage payments due, medical information about the potential purchaser, and the amount of credit card debt carried by the potential purchaser.

3. Verification and Profiling of Information

After information has been gathered from a registered user as described above, the information may be verified for accuracy, updated, and profiled in comparison to other registered

users. Figure 4 depicts these acts taking place either at the end of the registration process or as a

separate procedure that can occur at any given time. As indicated above, the value of information to

sellers increases if it is verified and/or updated information.

Block 111 of Figure 4 depicts the verification of a potential purchaser's information (also represented as numeral 419 in Figure 3). The information may be verified by comparing it to

information in a variety of other databases, such as public databases maintained by cities, counties, or

states, or other governmental entities, or private databases which may be accessed, perhaps for a certain price. Third party verification sources include credit bureaus, state departments of motor

vehicle records or databases, and property tax databases or records. Information may be verified

manually or, more preferably, by use of a computer program that compares information and identifies

discrepancies. Self-verification is another method to verify a potential purchaser's information. For instance, if credit card or other information indicates that a potential purchaser consistently purchases diapers, it may be assumed that the potential purchaser has at least one young child. After information has been verified, the potential purchaser's profile may be updated to reflect information from which -26- verification with secondary sources was successful and information from which verification from secondary sources was not successful.

The information in a potential purchaser's profile may also be updated from time to time to ensure that current information is in the system, as depicted in block 115 of Figure 4 (also represented as numeral 417 in Figure 3). Profiles may be updated by any variety of methods, including sending emails to a registered user asking for updated information, telephoning registered users to update the registered user's profile, or requiring a registered user to enter updated information upon logging on to

the system. The registered user's profile may also be updated by receiving transaction information

from transactions effected by the registered user through entities other than the system proprietor of the present invention. In one embodiment, for instance, a registered user may provide access to credit

card databases that would allow the registered user's profile to be updated. The act of updating may

also involve gathering additional information about the potential purchaser from outside information

sources after getting permission from the potential purchaser to do so. Information could be gathered

from various online sources, credit bureaus, government databases, credit card companies, and any other information providers. Block 117 of Figure 4 depicts the gathering of possible future purchasing information from a

potential purchaser. If this information is gathered and a number of potential purchasers have similar purchase interests, this information may be presented to advertisers or sellers of goods or services so

that sellers or advertisers can offer new deals on those specific goods or services.

A registered user may desire to access his or her information profile on the electronic file 11

and determine how he or she compares to other registered users. Each registered user's profile, therefore, may be scalable in relation to the profiles of other registered users, as depicted in block 113 of Figure 4. The term "scalable" will be used to refer to any method of depicting how one registered -27- user's profile (or any of the information therein) compares with other registered users' profiles. For

instance, a registered user may wish to determine how his or her income or amount of savings

compares to the other registered users. A graphical depiction of the registered user's income or amount of savings could therefore be displayed in relation to the average of the other registered users in the electronic file 11.

4. Group Aggregated by the Site

After a number of registered users exist on the electronic file 11 , the system proprietor may wish to aggregate profiles of these registered users into different groups. Figure 3 depicts these groups as groups aggregated by the site (numeral 425). For example, registered users may be grouped according to income. The system proprietor could then offer certain parameters of an

income level group to a seller of goods or services in order to solicit an offer. The set of parameters

provided to the seller from the system proprietor may, in one embodiment, be of a general nature so

that private information about individual registered users is not provided to the seller. A seller of

goods or services may then use the set of parameters of the group of registered users to formulate an

offer for the sale of a specific good or service. 5. Group Aggregated by the Site with Interaction from Users Responsive to an

Offer from a Seller a. Signing Up for a Deal

Potential purchasers, including, in one embodiment, guests, may also be grouped in the electronic file 1 1 in response to a specific offer from a seller of goods or services. Figure 3 refers to

such a group as a group aggregated by the site with interaction (responsive to an offer) and refers to such a group with numeral 427. Figures 7a and 7b depict a flow chart of this grouping embodiment of the present invention that may be referred to as the "show me the deal" embodiment. In this

embodiment, a seller of goods or services presents a deal to one or more potential purchasers, and, in one embodiment, the deal will only be consummated if a certain number (a threshold number) of potential purchasers sign up for the deal. Because sellers of goods or services can offer discounts

through economies of scale if they receive a large amount of information on a group of potential purchasers (some of which may be very useful, highly invasive personal information), potential purchasers may be pooled together to form one bargaining unit that can receive a better deal than any

one potential purchaser negotiating individually with a seller. The seller saves money on advertising

expenses because those potential purchasers who sign up for a deal are likely to purchase the specific

good or service, and therefore the seller can advertise very effectively to an interested group of potential purchasers without mass advertising to unlikely potential purchasers. Offers may be solicited from sellers by the system proprietors or sellers may have access to the electronic file 1 1 of the

present invention so that the sellers can themselves post an offer for a deal in the electronic file 11. If the system proprietor operates a Web site, for instance, a seller could post an offer for a deal on the

Web site.

Upon entering the Web site that operates the electronic file 11, the potential purchaser may be

presented with an option to choose the type of deal for which he/she is interested, as depicted in

Block 201 of Figure 7a. Block 203 depicts the presentment of a number of deals of the "show me the

deal" embodiment, while blocks 204 and 205 depict two other forms of deals which will be discussed below. A "show me the deal" deal is one in which a seller of goods or services agrees to offer certain terms, such as price, for a good or service if a certain number of potential purchasers (a threshold number) sign up for the deal by a certain date. At block 203, therefore, a number of standing deal offers may be presented to the potential purchasers. Figure 3 refers generally to these offers as

qualified group offers 435, and more particularly as seller initiated qualified group offers 435a because the sellers post such offers on the electronic file on their own volition. The seller initiated qualified -29- group offers 435a may be grouped into the type of deal, such as mortgage services, banking services,

telephone services, or sporting goods. After the potential purchaser selects a specific deal, views its terms, and decides to sign up for the deal, as depicted in block 207, the potential purchaser may be prompted to determine if the potential purchaser is registered user or a guest to the electronic file 1 1. At block 209 of Figure 7a, the electronic file 11 determines if the potential purchaser is a

registered user or a guest. This procedure could involve simply asking the potential purchaser or, alternatively, asking for certain information about the potential purchaser and then searching to

determine if a registered user having that specific information is registered in the electronic file 11. If the potential purchaser is not registered, the guest may be prompted to register with the system

proprietor, as depicted in Figure 4. If the potential purchaser is a registered user, the electronic file 11

may determine whether additional levels of information (i.e., level 1 , level 2, level N) is required for the

specific deal. Some deals, for instance, may require a potential purchaser to enter level 2 information in order to sign up for the deal. Other deals may require little or no information beyond the required

information. If level 1 , level 2, or level N information is required of a potential purchaser for a specific

deal, as depicted in block 211, the potential purchaser may be required to enter that information to

sign up for the deal. If such information is not required, the potential purchaser may be signed up for

the deal, as depicted at block 213.

In one embodiment, certain deals may require specific information which may not be included within the required information or level 1, level 2, or level N information. As depicted in blocks 215

and 217, such specific information may be solicited and received from the potential purchaser. Some

deals, for instance, may require the potential purchaser to enter medical information, level of education, current mortgage rate, or other potentially invasive information. If the deal concerns phone services, for example, the potential purchaser may be required to enter information such as his or her -30- current local phone company, long distance phone company, long distance calling minutes per month, foreign calling minutes per month, and average monthly phone bill. In one embodiment, if the potential

purchaser does not wish to enter such information and refuses to do so, he or she cannot sign up for

the deal. In these embodiments, the value of the specific information to the advertiser or seller of the goods or services may be so great that the seller is not willing to offer such a deal if the specific information is not provided by the potential purchaser.

In some situations, a potential purchaser may not fit the requirements preferred by the seller of the goods or services to qualify as a purchaser. In one embodiment, the potential purchaser may not

be allowed to sign up for a given deal if the requirements are not met. If a certain deal is for a

mortgage, for instance, only potential purchasers with certain incomes or savings may qualify as

purchasers for the mortgage. b. Closing a Deal

After a potential purchaser has signed up for a specific deal, the potential purchaser may be

informed of the number of potential purchasers signed up for that particular deal and how many more are needed in order for the seller of the goods or services to consummate the deal. This information may be provided to the potential purchasers at any time before or after a potential purchaser signs up

for a deal, and it may be presented to the potential purchasers through a Web site, by email, or by other methods known by those skilled in the art.

Block 219 of Figure 7b depicts an indication to one or more potential purchasers of the

threshold number of potential purchasers required for the deal to close and the number of potential

purchasers signed up for the deal. The date that the offering for the deal is scheduled to close may

also be indicated to the potential purchaser, as depicted in block 221. When the date that the offering for the deal is scheduled to close, a determination may be made as to whether the threshold number of -31- potential purchasers have signed up for the deal, as depicted in block 223. If the threshold has not

been met, potential purchasers and the seller of the goods or services may be notified that the deal has

not closed, in one embodiment by email, as shown in block 225. If the threshold may be met or is very close to being met, such a message may be sent to the potential purchasers. Similarly, if the threshold will be met, a corresponding message may be sent to the potential purchasers. In another

embodiment, the seller of the goods or services may be given the option of accepting a lower number

of potential purchasers who have signed up for a deal (i.e., below the threshold number) or extending the date through which the deal will be offered. If such is the case, the potential purchasers may be notified by email or otherwise that the deal will close in a certain number of days even though the

threshold number of potential purchasers has not been met, or that the date through which the deal will

remain open has been extended.

If the threshold level of potential purchasers is met, the potential purchasers signed up for the

deal may be notified that the deal will close in a certain number of days or weeks, as depicted in block 227. In one embodiment, the potential purchasers signed up for the deal will be presented with the

opportunity to remove themselves from the deal before their information is provided to the seller of the

goods or services. Block 229 depicts this possibility. If the potential purchaser removes himself or

herself from the deal (block 231), a confirmation message may be sent to the potential purchaser and the number of potential purchasers signed up for the deal may be updated accordingly.

Block 233 depicts the electronic file 1 1 effecting the closure of deal by providing the profiles of the potential purchasers to the seller of the goods or services for the particular deal (also depicted

as block 455 in Figure 3). Because the confidentiality of the information in the profiles of the potential

purchasers may be important, in one embodiment sellers may be contractually bound to use the information only for the particular deal and to destroy it afterward so that it will not be used for other -32- purposes. Block 233 may, in one embodiment, be the first time that any information regarding profiles of potential purchasers will be presented to the sellers of the goods or services. After such information has been provided to the seller of the goods or services, it may, in one embodiment, be up

to the individual seller to market the deal to the potential purchaser so that a real deal (involving the transfer of goods or services in exchange for money) is consummated. Although references may be made to a deal closing, therefore, these references may refer to only the exchange of information from

the electronic file 1 1 to the sellers of goods or services. In another embodiment, however, the

acceptances of the seller's offer may be communicated to the seller and an exchange of payment from

the potential purchaser to the seller and delivery by the seller may be initiated through the system.

Upon the closure of a deal, the status of the deal may be indicated to the potential purchasers

signed up for the deal (block 235), and the profiles of those potential purchasers who signed up for the deal may be updated to reflect the new information (block 237).

6. Group Aggregated by the Site with User Driven Interaction

a. Signing Up for a Deal

Potential purchasers may also group themselves in the electronic file 11 in order to solicit a

specific offer from a seller of goods or services. Figure 3 refers to such a group as a group aggregated by the site with interaction (user driven) and refers to such a group with numeral 429.

Figure 8 depicts a flow chart of this grouping embodiment of the present invention that may be

referred to as the "make the deal" embodiment. In this embodiment, a potential purchaser can post an indication of interest in the purchase of a specific good or service. This indication of interest may then be indicated through the electronic file 11 to other potential purchasers, who may likewise post an indication of interest in the purchase of the specific good or service. If a large enough number of potential purchasers post an indication of interest in a specific good or service, the parameters of the -33- interest in the good or service may be presented to one or more sellers of the good or service, who may then post a corresponding offer for the good or service with similar parameters as requested by

the plurality of potential purchasers. Figure 3 depicts such a qualified group offer 435 particularly as a qualified group offer responsive to users 435b (meaning potential purchasers).

Upon entering the electronic file 11, the potential purchaser may be presented with an option

to choose the type of deal for which they are interested, as depicted in block 301 of Figure 8. Block

303 depicts the presentment of the "make the deal" embodiment, in which one or more indications or

purchase interests from different potential purchasers may be posted. Blocks 304 and 305 depict two other forms of deals as discussed elsewhere in this specification. At block 307 a potential purchaser

may post an indication of interest in a particular good or service in the electronic file 1 1. This

indication of interest may then be presented to other potential purchasers so that those potential

purchasers may post an indication of purchase interest in that same good or service. In one embodiment, indications of purchaser interest may be solicited in a virtual room on the Web, so that a potential purchaser can post an indication of purchaser interest in a specific good or service and other

potential purchasers may have access to the virtual room to post their indication of purchase interest in

the specific good or service.

A potential purchaser who posts an indication of purchase interest in a good or service, including a potential purchaser who posts an indication of purchase interest for the same good or

service as other potential purchasers, may be queried as to his or her status as a registered user, as

depicted at block 309 of Figure 8. If the potential purchaser is not a registered user, the potential purchaser may be required to register with the system proprietor, as represented in one embodiment

in Figure 4. If the potential purchaser is a registered user, the registration procedure may be -34- bypassed, and the potential purchaser's purchase interest may be posted so that other potential

purchasers can post an interest in the same good or service, as depicted in block 311 of Figure 8. b. Receiving an Offer and Closing the Deal

At block 313 of Figure 8, the electronic file 11 may monitor the level of interest in posted indications of purchase interests for specific goods or services. If a large enough number of potential

purchasers post an indication of purchase interest in a good or service (the number may vary from a few potential purchasers to several thousand), the level of purchase interest may be communicated to

sellers of the good or service, as depicted in block 315 of Figure 8. If a seller of the goods or

services determines that it can offer a deal for the goods or services at the same or similar terms as

requested by the potential purchasers, or perhaps even at substantially different terms, the seller of

goods or services may offer a deal for the goods or services. Much like for the "show me the deal" embodiment, the seller of goods or services can more cheaply advertise for and/or offer the goods or

services if a large number of potential purchasers have an interest in the good or service and the seller

will be provided with information about those potential purchasers.

Block 317 of Figure 8 indicates the act of posting an offer from a seller to the electronic file 11. At this point, a variety of procedures could be followed. In one embodiment, an indication of the offer could be posted in the electronic file 11 and the potential purchasers could be required to post an

indication of purchaser interest in that offer to sign up for the deal. In another embodiment, all of the

potential purchasers who previously posted an indication of purchase interest in the good or service

could be automatically signed up for the deal, which is the embodiment depicted in Figure 8. In yet another embodiment, all of the potential purchasers who posted an indication of purchase interest in

the good or service could be notified of the pending offer by the seller, such as by email. -35- At block 319 of Figure 8, an indication of the closing of a deal is posted to the electronic file

11. This indication of closing of the deal, which could also take the form of an email to potential

purchasers, could include an opportunity for the potential purchasers to remove themselves from the deal, as indicated at block 321 and 323. If a potential purchaser chooses to remain a part of the deal, the deal may be closed, which may be effected by providing the profiles of the potential purchasers

signed up for the deal to the seller of the goods or services, as depicted at block 325 of Figure 8. In one embodiment, the acceptances of the seller's offer may be communicated to the seller and an

exchange of payment from the potential purchaser to the seller and delivery by the seller may be initiated through the system.

Upon the closure of a deal, the status of the deal may be indicated to the potential purchasers

signed up for the deal (block 327), and the profiles of those potential purchasers who signed up for the deal may be updated to reflect the new information (block 329). This act of updating may aid in

keeping the profile of the potential purchaser up to date. 7. Targeted Commercial Messages

Figures 9-1 1 depict an embodiment of the invention which may be used for targeting of

commercial messages. Throughout this specification, such commercial messages will be referred to as advertisements or commercial messages. The embodiment of Figure 9 comprises the server 10 or a broadcast facility 502, a television 504 of a potential purchaser, a purchaser display unit 506, and an

input unit 508 connected to the purchaser display unit 506. Although the server 10 and broadcast

facility 502 are depicted as one entity, the server 10 and the broadcast facility may be separate entities. In one embodiment, the server 10 (in the electronic file 11 of Figure 3) may contain the

profiles 510 of the registered users (who are registered with the system proprietor as described above), and the broadcast facility 502 may contain a variety of commercials 512, which may be targeted toward different groups of potential purchasers. The server 10 and broadcast facility 502 are depicted as one entity, however, because one or both of these entities may contain both the profiles 510 of registered users and the commercials 512. The advertisements or commercial messages may be television or radio commercials, emails, or newspaper or magazine articles presented over the

Internet. Figure 9 depicts one purchaser display unit 506, input unit 508, and television connected to

the server 10 or broadcast facility 502, although, in reality, a large number of televisions 504,

purchaser display units 506, and input units 508 may be connected to the server 10 or broadcast

facility 502 over any standard communication path. The television 504 may be any standard

television, although a computer or radio may also be used within the scope of the invention. The

purchaser display unit 506 is a unit (which may be integral with the television 504 or separate from the television 504) which is adapted and designed to receive certain commercial messages from the server

10 or broadcast facility 502. In one embodiment, an input unit 508 is connected to the purchaser display unit 506 so that a registered user can control the commercial messages which may be

displayed on his or her television. The targeted commercial messages embodiment of the invention allows advertisers or a

registered user to control the commercials that are displayed at a registered user's television 504. As

an initial procedure, profiles of potential purchasers (who become registered users) may be gathered

in the server 10 (or electronic file 11 of Figure 3) as discussed above. These profiles may then be presented to advertisers of goods or services. In one embodiment, the profiles of the registered users will be presented to the advertisers based on the profile of a registered user. In other words, the profiles of only those registered users who meet certain criteria will be presented to the advertisers. In

another embodiment, all or most of the profiles may be presented to an advertiser of goods or -37- services, and that advertiser can then target those registered users who meet its criteria. Because

privacy may be important to many registered users, in one embodiment information about registered users will only be provided to advertisers if specifically desired by the registered users.

Because an advertiser of a good or service may wish to target certain registered users for advertising, commercial message selection criteria may be developed for targeting registered users for

certain commercial messages. Such commercial message selection criteria may be developed by

individual advertisers or the system proprietor. Based on the demographic information in a registered

user's profile, a set of commercial messages (one or more such messages) may be selected for that

registered user. If a registered user has a large income and lives in an expensive neighborhood (which

may be determined based on zip code), commercial messages geared toward such a purchaser, such

as luxury cars, expensive jewelry, or expensive services, may be selected for that particular registered user. The commercial message selection criteria to make these determinations could be compiled in a number of different ways. Each commercial message could include necessary commercial message selection criteria, such as income or zip code requirements, gender preferences, or size of household,

from which such determinations may be made.

The commercial message selection criteria may then be applied to the profiles to determine which registered users are suited to receive specific commercial messages.

After the commercial message selection criteria are applied, specific commercial messages may be

presented to registered users.

In one embodiment, the selection of commercial messages could take place at the registered user level through the purchaser display unit 506. In this embodiment, all commercial messages could be sent over the communication path to the purchaser display unit 506. Figure 10 depicts commercial messages 550 being transmitted over a communication path to the purchaser display unit 506. The purchaser display unit 506 could then apply the commercial message selection criteria to the

commercial messages to determine which messages are appropriate for the given registered user. In another embodiment, the purchaser display unit 506 could prompt for interactive input from the

registered user (through the input unit 508), so that the registered user may select those commercial messages he or she wishes to view or hear. The registered user could make such selections based on

a set of commercial message selection criteria for a group of commercial messages. In yet another embodiment, the registered user could provide input through the input unit 508 as to those types of messages he or she wishes to hear or view, and then only those specific types of messages could be

transmitted over the communication path from the broadcast facility 502 or server 10 to the purchaser

display unit 508. In yet another embodiment, the application of the commercial message selection criteria to the commercial messages could take place at the server 10 or broadcast facility 502 level, so that only

commercial messages applicable to a given registered user would be transmitted over the

communication path to the registered user.

Figure 1 1 builds off Figure 3 and illustrates one embodiment of how a targeted commercial messages embodiment may function. Registered users, which are referred to collectively with numeral

801, provide information 803 to the electronic file 11 to register with the system proprietor as

discussed above. Profiles 805 are then developed in the electronic file 11 in the method discussed above. Advertisers may present advertisements 807 to the electronic file 11. Upon payment 809

from an advertiser to the system proprietor, profiles 805 may be provided to the advertisers. In one

embodiment, only profiles 805 having certain criteria are provided to the advertisers.

Advertisers may deliver advertisements 807 to a library of advertisements 825, which, in one embodiment, may exist on the server 10 in the electronic file 11 or at a broadcast facility 502 as -39- depicted in Figure 9 or, in another embodiment, at a purchaser display unit 506 of a registered user

801. Figure 11 refers to such delivery with numeral 813, and notes that such delivery can take place through a variety of communication paths known to those skilled in the art, including cable, DBS, and

the Internet. Individual advertisers may also provide commercial message selection criteria 811 to the library of advertisements 825 along with individual advertisements 807. These commercial message

selection criteria 811 provide the criteria by which advertisers determine which registered users should be presented with different advertisements 807. For example, one commercial message selection

criteria 811 for a specific advertisement 807 may specify that the advertisement is suited for registered users with a certain income level. Another commercial message selection criteria 811 for a specific

advertisement 807 may specify that the advertisement is suited for registered users with a certain

household size.

Figure 3 depicts a delivery filter 460 adjacent the advertisements 437, 439, 441 that allows

the advertisements 437, 439, 441 to be presented to certain targeted potential purchasers. Specific

advertisements 807 (Figure 11) may be selected for individual registered users 801 by comparing the

commercial message selection criteria 811 for a specific advertisement 807 with the profile 805 for a

registered user 801. Figure 1 1 refers to such selected advertisements with numeral 815. In one embodiment, registered users 801 may be provided a payment 809 for viewing certain advertisements or, in one embodiment, a registered user 801 may be paid a set payment 801 each time he or she

views or listens to an advertisement 807.

In one embodiment, specific advertisements 807 may be presented to a registered user 801 via email and such advertisements 807 may be presented based on the commercial message selection

criteria 811 as explained above. These advertisements 807 may contain coupons and other information for the purchase of goods or services. In one embodiment, the registered user 801 may -40- be compensated based on the amount of interaction with the email. For instance, the registered user

801 may be paid a certain amount of money for receiving the email (even if it is not viewed), an

increased amount of money for opening an email, and a further increase in money for replying to the

email with a question or expression of interest. In such embodiments, a feedback loop will provide the server 10 with information regarding whether the registered user 801 has received, read, or replied

to an email. In another embodiment, a registered user 801 may be compensated based on the level of

personal information provided by the registered user 801. For instance, a registered user 801 who

has provided detailed information requested in a high level (as explained above) will be compensated at a greater rate than a second registered user 801 who has provided less detailed information (of a lower level). This compensation scheme may be combined with the compensation scheme based on the registered user's 801 degree of interaction with the email. Although these compensation schemes

have been presented with specific reference to email commercial messages, such compensation

schemes may also be used with other delivery messages, such as a television embodiment.

In another embodiment, where a number of commercial messages are available to be viewed

or listened to by a potential purchaser, commercial messages may be presented to the potential purchaser based on the amount of money the commercial message will pay the potential purchaser. In

other words, a high paying commercial message may be presented to a potential purchaser before a

lower paying commercial message. In this manner, the advertisers who are willing to pay the greatest amounts for advertising have an increased opportunity to present advertisements to potential

purchasers. C. Summary

The present invention provides methods and systems for building profiles of potential purchasers for certain purposes, such as advertising. By pooling the profiles of potential purchasers, -41- the potential purchasers may receive discount prices on goods or services, while the sellers or

advertisers of those goods or services can save money on advertising because profiles of potential purchasers with interests in specific goods or services may be provided. Different embodiments have been presented, including an embodiment where an offer for goods or services is presented by a seller of the goods or services, contingent upon a set number of potential purchasers signing up for the deal

within a given amount of time. Another embodiment allows potential purchasers to present indications of purchase interest in a specific good or service so that an offer may be solicited from one or more

sellers of the goods or services. Yet another embodiment allows an advertiser or potential purchaser

to target which commercial messages will be selected for a potential purchaser based on the potential

purchaser's profile information. While the present invention has been described with reference to several embodiments thereof, those skilled in the art will recognize various changes that may be made without departing

from the spirit and scope of the claimed invention. Accordingly, this invention is not limited to what is shown in the drawings and described in the specification but only as indicated in the appended claims.

Any numbering or ordering of elements in the following claims is merely for convenience and is not intended to suggest that the ordering of the elements of the claims has any particular significance other

than that otherwise expressed by the language of the claims.

Claims

-42- CLAIMSWhat is claimed is:
1. A method for compiling in a host computer system a purchaser profile for inclusion in a pool of purchaser profiles, comprising:
(a) collecting in an electronic file in the host computer system identification and residence
location information for at least one potential purchaser, and registering the at least one potential purchaser with the host computer system;
(b) collecting in the electronic file profile information provided by the at least one potential
purchaser;
(c) effecting for the at least one potential purchaser one or more purchase transactions
and collecting resulting transaction information in the electronic file; and
(d) preparing from at least the information from acts (b) and (c) a profile for the at least
one potential purchaser that is updated regularly.
2. The method of claim 1, wherein the profile for the at least one potential purchaser is scalable relative to the profiles of other potential purchasers to allow the at least one potential purchaser to
learn how they relate to other potential purchasers.
3. The method of claim 2, wherein the profile is scalable by amount of savings.
4. The method of claim 1 , further comprising verifying one or more of the preceding items of information with information from a second source and noting in the electronic file information for
which verification failed.
5. The method of claim 1 , further comprising receiving on a regular basis information on transactions effected by the at least one potential purchaser with parties other than the host that resulted in electronic transaction information. -43-
6. The method of claim 1, further comprising collecting in the electronic file indications of future purchase interest from at least one potential purchaser.
7. The method of claim 1 , further comprising:
assembling a plurality of potential purchaser profiles for presentation to a potential seller of goods or services applicable to a substantial portion of the plurality of potential purchasers; and
receiving from the potential seller and communicating to the plurality of potential purchasers an offer formulated on the assumption that it will be accepted by a substantial portion of the plurality of potential purchasers and reflecting the resulting economies of scale.
8. The method of claim 7, further comprising:
effecting a purchase deal between the potential seller and the plurality of potential purchasers;
and providing the plurality of potential purchaser profiles to the potential seller.
9. The method of claim 1 , further comprising interactively soliciting and receiving profile
information from the at least one potential purchaser.
10. The method of claim 9, wherein the act of soliciting and receiving further comprises gathering required information and optional information from the at least one potential purchaser.
11. The method of claim 10, wherein levels of optional information which vary in invasiveness are solicited and received from the at least one potential purchaser.
12. The method of claim 1, wherein act (a) is performed as a part of a specific purchase
transaction.
13. A method of aggregating in a host computer system a pool of potential purchasers to respond to an offer for a group purchase, comprising: -44- (a) collecting in an electronic file in the host computer system identification and residence location information for at least one potential purchaser, and registering the at least one potential purchaser with the host computer system;
(b) collecting in the electronic file profile information provided by the at least one potential
purchaser; (c) effecting for the at least one potential purchaser one or more purchase transactions
and collecting resulting transaction information in the electronic file;
(d) assembling a plurality of potential purchaser profiles for presentation to a potential seller of goods or services applicable to a substantial portion of the plurality of potential purchasers;
and (e) receiving from the potential seller and communicating to the plurality of potential
purchasers an offer formulated on the assumption that it will be accepted by a substantial portion of
the plurality of potential purchasers and reflecting the resulting economies of scale.
14. The method of claim 13, further comprising: effecting a purchase deal between the potential seller and the plurality of potential purchasers;
and providing the plurality of potential purchaser profiles to the potential seller.
15. An apparatus for aggregating in a host computer system a pool of potential purchasers to
respond to an offer for a group purchase, the apparatus comprising:
programs to (a) collect in an electronic file in the host computer system identification and residence location information for at least one potential purchaser, and register the at least one potential purchaser with the host computer system; -45- (b) collect in the electronic file profile information provided by the at least one potential purchaser;
(c) effect for the at least one potential purchaser one or more purchase transactions and collect resulting transaction information in the electronic file;
(d) assemble a plurality of potential purchaser profiles for presentation to a potential seller
of goods or services applicable to a substantial portion of the plurality of potential purchasers; and
(e) receive from the potential seller and communicate to the plurality of potential
purchasers an offer formulated on the assumption that it will be accepted by a substantial portion of the plurality of potential purchasers and reflecting the resulting economies of scale.
16. The apparatus of claim 15 further comprising programs to effect a purchase deal between the
potential seller and the plurality of potential purchasers and provide the plurality of potential purchaser profiles to the potential seller.
17. A method for providing to a host computer system a purchaser profile for inclusion in a pool of purchaser profiles, comprising:
(a) sending to the host computer system identification and residence location information of at least one potential purchaser;
(b) sending to the host computer system profile information of the at least one potential purchaser;
(c) transmitting transaction information to the host computer system that results from an
effected purchase transaction of the at least one potential purchaser; and (d) receiving from the host computer system a profile for the at least one potential purchaser resulting from the information from acts (b) and (c) that is updated regularly.
18. The method of claim 17, further comprising: receiving an offer from a potential seller that has been formulated by the potential seller on the assumption that it will be accepted by a substantial portion of a plurality of potential purchasers and reflecting the resulting economies of scale; and
sending an acceptance of the potential seller's offer based on terms in the offer from the
potential seller.
19. A computer-readable medium containing instructions for compiling in a host computer system
a purchaser profile for inclusion in a pool of purchaser profiles, by:
(a) collecting in an electronic file in the host computer system identification and residence
location information for at least one potential purchaser;
(b) collecting in the electronic file profile information provided by the at least one potential
purchaser;
(c) effecting for the at least one potential purchaser one or more purchase transactions and collecting resulting transaction information in the electronic file; and
(d) preparing from at least the information from acts (b) and (c) a profile for the at least one potential purchaser that is updated regularly.
20. A method of aggregating a pool of potential purchasers to solicit an offer for a group
purchase, comprising:
(a) assembling in a host computer information on a group of potential purchasers with
known purchaser profiles;
(b) soliciting from at least one potential purchaser an indication of purchase interest for a
good or service, and providing other potential purchasers with access to solicited information for the good or service so that the other potential purchasers can post an indication of purchase interest in the
good or service; -47- (c) monitoring on a periodic basis a number of potential purchasers who have posted an indication of purchase interest for the good or service;
(d) responsive to the number of potential purchasers who have posted an indication of
purchase interest for the good or service, communicating to at least one seller of the good or service a
set of parameters of the group of potential purchasers who have posted an indication of purchase interest for the good or service, and soliciting an offer from the at least one seller of the good or service for a group purchase; and
(e) receiving from the seller and communicating to the plurality of potential purchasers
who have posted an indication of purchase interest for the specified good or service an offer
formulated on an assumption that it will be accepted by a substantial portion of the plurality of
potential purchasers and reflecting resulting economies of scale.
21. The method of claim 20, wherein the act of soliciting comprises: providing a virtual room in which the at least one potential purchaser can post an indication of
purchase interest for a specified good or service; and providing other potential purchasers with access to the virtual room in which such potential
purchasers can post their indications of purchase interest in the specified good or service.
22. The method of claim 20, further comprising: collecting in an electronic file in the host computer system identification and residence location
information for the at least one potential purchaser, and registering the at least one potential purchaser
with the host computer system; collecting in the electronic file profile information provided by the at least one potential
purchaser; -48- effecting for the at least one potential purchaser one or more purchase transactions and collecting resulting transaction information in the electronic file; and
preparing from at least the profile information and transaction information a profile for the at least one potential purchaser that is updated regularly.
23. The method of claim 20, further comprising communicating to the seller the acceptances of the
its offer and initiating an exchange of payment to the seller and delivery by the seller.
24. The method of claim 20 wherein the known purchaser profiles comprise verified purchase
profiles.
25. A method for providing at least one purchaser profile for inclusion in a pool of purchasers who
may solicit an offer for a group purchase, comprising: (a) sending at least one potential purchaser profile to a host computer for inclusion with a
group of potential purchasers with known purchaser profiles;
(b) sending to a host computer an indication of purchase interest for a good or service for
inclusion in a pool of potential purchasers so that other potential purchasers can post an indication of
purchase interest in the good or service;
(c) receiving an offer from at least one seller of the good or service formulated on an assumption that it will be accepted by a substantial portion of the plurality of potential purchasers and
reflecting resulting economies of scale; and
(d) communicating to the at least one seller the acceptance of its offer and initiating an
exchange of payment to the seller and delivery by the seller.
26. The method of claim 25, wherein the act of sending to a host computer an indication of purchase interest for a good or service comprises: -49- entering a virtual room in which the at least one potential purchaser can post an indication of purchase interest for a specified good or service, wherein the virtual room allows other potential purchasers to post their indication of purchase interest in the specified good or service.
27. An apparatus for aggregating a pool of potential purchasers to solicit an offer for a group
purchase, the apparatus comprising:
programs to
(a) assemble in a host computer information on a group of potential purchasers with
known purchaser profiles;
(b) solicit from at least one potential purchaser an indication of purchase interest for a good or service, and provide other potential purchasers with access to solicited information for the good or service so that the other potential purchasers can post an indication of purchase interest in the
good or service;
(c) monitor on a periodic basis a number of potential purchasers who have posted an
indication of purchase interest for the good or service;
(d) responsive to the number of potential purchasers who have posted an indication of
purchase interest for the good or service, communicate to at least one seller of the good or service a
set of parameters of the group of potential purchasers who have posted an indication of purchase
interest for the good or service, and solicit an offer from the at least one seller of the good or service
for a group purchase; and
(e) receive from the seller and communicate to the plurality of potential purchasers who have posted an indication of purchase interest for the specified good or service an offer formulated on an assumption that it will be accepted by a substantial portion of the plurality of potential purchasers
and reflecting resulting economies of scale. -50- 28. A computer-readable medium containing instructions for aggregating a pool of purchasers to solicit an offer for a group purchase, by:
(a) assembling in a host computer information on a group of potential purchasers with known purchaser profiles;
(b) soliciting from at least one potential purchaser an indication of purchase interest for a
good or service, and providing other potential purchasers with access to solicited information for the
good or service so that the other potential purchasers can post an indication of purchase interest in the
good or service;
(c) monitoring on a periodic basis a number of potential purchasers who have posted an
indication of purchase interest for the good or service; (d) responsive to the number of potential purchasers who have posted an indication of
purchase interest for the good or service, communicating to at least one seller of the good or service a set of parameters of the group of potential purchasers who have posted an indication of purchase
interest for the good or service, and soliciting an offer from the at least one seller of the good or
service for a group purchase; and (e) receiving from the seller and communicating to the plurality of potential purchasers
who have posted an indication of purchase interest for the specified good or service an offer
formulated on an assumption that it will be accepted by a substantial portion of the plurality of
potential purchasers and reflecting resulting economies of scale.
PCT/US2000/017974 1999-06-30 2000-06-30 Method and system for linking pooled purchasers with sellers WO2001001315A1 (en)

Priority Applications (2)

Application Number Priority Date Filing Date Title
US34382199A true 1999-06-30 1999-06-30
US09/343,821 1999-06-30

Applications Claiming Priority (1)

Application Number Priority Date Filing Date Title
AU59006/00A AU5900600A (en) 1999-06-30 2000-06-30 Method and system for linking pooled purchasers with sellers

Publications (1)

Publication Number Publication Date
WO2001001315A1 true WO2001001315A1 (en) 2001-01-04

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ID=23347816

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PCT/US2000/017974 WO2001001315A1 (en) 1999-06-30 2000-06-30 Method and system for linking pooled purchasers with sellers

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WO (1) WO2001001315A1 (en)

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