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This Patent Application has received a final rejection by the US Patent Office!

AN OVERBROAD PATENT ON targeting messages to users based on based on distance between user and a location - This application from a self-proclaimed "Internet visionary" seeks to patent the idea of...geo-targeting messages to users! 10 minutes of your time can help narrow US patent applications before they become patents. Follow @askpatents on twitter to help.

QUESTION - Have you seen anything that was published before 1/11/2012 that discusses:

  • using location between a user and a location to send messages to a user

If so, please submit evidence of prior art as an answer to this question. We welcome multiple answers from the same individual.

EXTRA CREDIT - A reference to anything that meets all of the criteria to the question above AND ALSO a radiofrequency tags are used to identify the user

TITLE: Delivering messages to users based on their location

Summary: [Translated from Legalese into English] A method for delivering ads to users based on location: if user's device is within a predetermined distance of a location, sending the user a message.

Claim 1 requires each and every step below:

A method for linking a person to a location, the method comprising the steps of:

  1. a computer determining that a device of a person is within a predetermined distance of a location, based on data received from the device;

  2. the computer identifying the at least one of the person and the device, based on the received data;

  3. the computer associating the at least one of the person and the device with the location;

  4. the computer generating a message based on the association; and

  5. the computer communicating the message to the person.

In English this means:

A method for delivering ads to users based on user's location:

  1. Determine with user is within predetermined distance of a location

  2. Identify the user or device

  3. Associate (presumably in a database) the user with the location

  4. Generate a message for the user and send the message to the user

Good prior art would be evidence of a system that did each and every one of these steps prior to 1/11/2012

You're probably aware of ten pieces of art that meet this criteria already... separately, the applicant is claiming Using RFID tags to identify the device

"Communicating promotional content from the Applicant"

What is good prior art? Please see our FAQ.

Want to help? Please vote or comment on submissions below. We welcome you to post your own request for prior art on other questionable US Patent Applications.

  • Ever had annoying bluetooth messages sent to you whilst at a cinema or similar places? ;) Sep 19, 2013 at 6:32

7 Answers 7


There is tons of prior art in this space. Here are some I could find with a quick search:


https://www.google.com/patents/WO2001086918A3 (And it's related US counterpart: https://www.google.com/patents/US20040198396)



Many of these also talk about 1) leaving a message associated with a location, and 2) transmitting that message to other devices near or at the location. This patent's claims focuses on only the latter aspect, but those seem to be covered by these references as well.

I recall seeing an application filed circa 2007 that is even more relevant to these claims, but I just can't find it now.


Stop and Shop "Scan It" scanners provide ads for nearby products as a shopper walks through the store. Described in an article here: http://phys.org/news139225121.html


A startup called Doot seems to have implemented location based messages in September of 2011. Does this suffice as prior art?


"...with the Doot app, you’re able to tag a location with a message, or a doot, even when you’re not there."

The feature set in the app actually seems much more extensive than simple messages.

"Physical gifting is another part of a three-tiered monetization strategy, which also includes virtual gifts and hyperlocal brand engagement, where merchants can use the platform for a number of customer targeting activities."


When I arrived in Finland in early 2006, the local trains in the Helsinki area already did this routinely, in the form of automatic announcements when approaching stations. The Metro line restricts itself to reading out the name of the approaching station, while the mainline commuter trains also announce interchange information when approaching certain junction stations.

Announcement example, approximate translation:

Next is Pasila.

Express trains to Tampere and Kouvola, and local trains to Lahti and Riihimäki, leave from Platforms 3 and 4. Local trains to Tikkurila and Kerava leave from Platform 2.

Two of the stations (Ilmala and Pasila) are sufficiently close together that the announcement point for Pasila for trains not stopping at Ilmala is roughly alongside Ilmala - but trains that do stop at Ilmala also start to play the Pasila announcement while pulling into Ilmala platform. This is strong evidence that the announcements are triggered at a specific distance from each station, rather than incorporating additional data such as the speed of the train. As a workaround, the Pasila announcement for stopping trains has a long period of silence at the beginning, so that the announcement is less confusing.

Let's cover the claim step by step:

a computer determining that a device of a person is within a predetermined distance of a location, based on data received from the device;

Check, based on the above evidence. I believe it is done using a combination of GPS and wheel-rotation data, but that is not essential.

the computer identifying the at least one of the person and the device, based on the received data;

The "device" is the moving train that the computer is fitted to, so it is implicitly identified. Additionally, the computer has been told by the traincrew in advance which stopping pattern the train is due to execute.

the computer associating the at least one of the person and the device with the location;


the computer generating a message based on the association; and

A recorded announcement is selected...

the computer communicating the message to the person.

...and played back over the internal PA system for the benefit of passengers.

  • I don't see "associating a location with a person".
    – George White
    Sep 15, 2013 at 18:37
  • It's "at least one of the person and the device". I read that as "either a person or a device".
    – Chromatix
    Sep 15, 2013 at 21:53
  • I re-read it and you are 100% correct.
    – George White
    Sep 16, 2013 at 0:27

Like most modern smartphones and tablets, Apple iOS devices have used many of the methods in this patent application for years.

For the location aspect, Apple filed US Patent #8,396,485 on 9 Nov 2010. Their system works by using cell towers to track the coarse location of a user, which uses less power. When the user enters a coarse location that contains the target location, the device uses RF beacons to determine location more precisely. Then, it uses the location of the device to "determine services available," which include communicating with a website to present location-based advertisements to the user. (The location is determined on the device in this case, not based on signals received from the device. Mobile phone tracking that happens offboard has been common knowledge for years.)

Since iOS 4 (released 21 Jun 2010), Apple has also used identifiers to track per-person interests. They use this identifier to serve track user interests and serve ads relevant to those interests.


The application also contains a claim for using RFID to get the location of a device:

"2. The method of claim 1, wherein the computer receives the data via a radio frequency identification tag of the device."

In an article titled "How RFID Tags Could Be Used to Track Unsuspecting People", published 18 Aug 2008, Scientific American documents drivers license with RFID chips that can be read from 30 feet away.

The new licenses come equipped with radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags that can be read right through a wallet, pocket or purse from as far away as 30 feet. Each tag incorporates a tiny microchip encoded with a unique identification number. As the bearer approaches a border station, radio energy broadcast by a reader device is picked up by an antenna connected to the chip, causing it to emit the ID number.

A computer then looks up the ID holder in the a database and displays profile information to law enforcement:

By the time the license holder reaches the border agent, the number has already been fed into a Homeland Security database, and the traveler’s photograph and other details are displayed on the agent’s screen.

RFID readers would be able to determine the location of a device once the RFID tag enters the range of the reader, which (I believe) is one of the claims.


Back around 2006-2007 I worked for Green Packet Inc. (www.greenpacket.com). We developed routers and mobile IP software. One fo the features of our carrier grade routers was location based services. It used routing information (which port/subnet is the device connected to) to figure out the user's location. From the routing information we can associate the user with the WIFI access point (AP) he's connected to and therefore associate the user with a location.

I'm not entirely sure if Green Packet has any patents on this as I was involved only in the coding/implementation stage and the patents may have been applied during the research/product development stage but some of our competitors such as Cisco also had similar capabilities and the idea have also been implemented in open source code (if I'm not mistaken, by the Linux Router Project - which was later merged back into the Linux kernel as the iproute stack).

Anyway, that's the "location" part. The "targeted message" part was an installation we did at a shopping mall and several trade shows in China that used the location based service to send location specific ads to Windows CE and Palm OS phones and PDAs. I don't believe Green Packet applied a patent for this application but I could be wrong (it was the most obvious use of location based services after all so maybe nobody thought it needed patenting).

That should basically cover at least 3 of the claims:

  1. Determine user's location

  2. Identify user or device

  3. Generate and transmit location specific message to device

If I recall, the system we installed did not require user to login or register so we didn't do the "associate user with location" part. But the software could do it since we did have a login/authentication module and did have the capability to track user's usage for accounting purposes. So it was invented/implemented but not deployed since the customer didn't require it.

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