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DYNAMIC NETWORKED CONTENT
CROSS REFERENCES TO RELATED
 This patent application is related to and claims benefit of priority from U.S. Provisional Patent Application Serial No. 60/283,606 filed on Apr. 13, 2001.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
 The present invention is directed to a system and methods implemented therein for the dynamic distribution of content through networks and, in particular, to a system and methods implemented therein for the dynamic acquisition, management and distribution of content through a network.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 The acquisition and distribution of information through private and public networks, and in particular through public networks such as the Internet, have become very common with virtually every business and school and a large proportion of private residences having access to and receiving and transiting information through the Internet. The variety and volume of information acquired and distributed through the Internet is extremely large and is increasing rapidly and includes business information and transactions, educational resources and various forms of entertainment. This information is often and generally referred to as "content" and, for purposes of the following discussions, includes essentially all types or forms of information or data that may be acquired or distributed through a network. Content may include any form of data that may be contained in any form of computer supported file, object or other body of data in any format, such as, and for example, a document, a spreadsheet, a database record, graphic or audio information, or a web page, such as a hypertext markup language (HTML) pages, and so on.
 A recurring problem with the acquisition and distribution of content through a network such as the Internet, however, is in managing the acquisition and distribution of content as business requirements and network technologies evolve, often very rapidly, and the content and manner distribution of content must evolve or change as rapidly. For example, the goods or services offered by a business may change rapidly in the ordinary course of business, or a business may expand or change the type and nature of goods or services offered or the market to which the goods or services are offered. The content distributed in association with financial services, for example, is typically updated daily and even hourly or at shorter intervals, while other businesses typically update their distributed content weekly, monthly or on a seasonable basis. It must be noted that this problem is compounded in that the distribution of content typically also requires equal facility in the rapid acquisition of content. For example, many businesses and services on the Internet, such as financial services or business, must acquire and process financial information, such as stock prices and trends, business information, interest and exchange rates, at a rate that is as fast as or faster than the rate at which the content is distributed. Yet other businesses and services, including, for example, both business, news
and entertainment enterprises, are essentially content distributors, or syndicators, whose entire efforts are centered around the timely acquisition and distribution of content.
 The problems of content acquisition, management and distribution are compounded still further by the evolving demands, applications and technologies for content distribution. The range and variety of content distribution on the Internet are evolving and changing rapidly, as are new applications for content distribution, and each change or new application being new problems, demands or requirements in the acquisition, management and distribution of content. For example, recent developments in content distribution include the real time distribution of music, voice and video or graphic information in the entertainment industry. Yet other problems, demands and requirements in network content distribution arise from new distribution technologies, such as wireless networks distributing content through cell phones and wireless personal assistants.
 To illustrate, previous systems and methods for the distribution of content on, for example, the Internet, have generally included both systems developed by a content distributor for the general distribution of content from a variety of clients or businesses and systems developed by individual businesses or services and tailored to their individual and specific needs. The general content distribution systems serving a variety of clients, however, have typically provided "vanilla" services using long established and accepted industry standard technologies and methods. That is, the clients are required to conform their content to a limited range of forms, presentations and types of services supported by the distributor system, and which have been selected according to a common denominator rather than according to the individual needs of desires of the clients. Not only are the clients limited in the range of content types, presentations and services that are available to them, but the clients have little effective control over their content in these respect, or even in such issues as security. In addition, the clients are typically required to provide all content updates or changes, which can often be a difficult, complex, burdensome and neglected task for many clients. Also, the providers of such distribution services are often slow or reluctant to adapt to new forms of content and new methods of content distribution, such as wireless networks, because of the cost and uncertainty of entering a new market or adopting a new and non-established technology.
 Systems developed by an individual distributor to meet the individual and specific desires and needs of the distributor better meet the requirements for content type, presentation and services of the individual distributor, as well as providing greater control of these factors and such factors as security and control of content. Many such distributors, however, are limited in the expertise and resources to adequately implement such systems, to subsequently maintain such systems, including the updating and revision of content, and to adapt the systems to changing content, markets or network technologies. These problems are compounded yet further in that many such systems employ proprietary or nonstandard technologies and methods, which often further increases the costs and increases the difficulty in adapting to changing content, markets or network technologies.
 The present invention addresses and provides a solution to these and other related problems of the prior art.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 The present invention is directed to a content exchange system and method of operation thereof for the dynamic acquisition, management and distribution of content through a network and to content clients.
 A content exchange system includes a content acquisition system communicating with a content source for receiving content from the content source and parsing and formatting the content for storage and for distribution to the content clients, a repository system for storing and managing the content and content relationships and for retrieving the content for distribution to the content clients, and a content distribution system for receiving the content from the repository system and formatting and distributing the content to the content clients.
 In a present embodiment of the content exchange system, a content acquisition system includes a retrieval engine for acquiring content from the content source, including one or more of actively fetching content from the content source and passively accepting content from the content source, and a content processor, which includes a content parser for parsing the content into content items wherein each content item is an identifiable body of content, a content formatter for formatting the content into formats and relationships identified by the content clients, and a tag mechanism for associating a tag with each content item wherein each tag contains identification information pertaining to the corresponding content item. The content processor and tag mechanism may further associate content items in accordance with aggregation relationships defined by identification information residing in the corresponding tags.
 A retrieval engine may include a retrieval agent for communicating with a content source and acquiring content from the content source, including one or more of actively fetching content from the content source and passively accepting content from the content source, and a retrieval process defined by one or more content clients for controlling a corresponding retrieval agent.
 The repository system will include a repository for storing the content, a repository manager for controlling the storage of data in the repository, at least one repository connector providing a defined access path to the repository, and a query engine for receiving requests for content from content clients and generating corresponding queries to the repository for the requested content, wherein the repository manager is responsive to a query for providing the requested content to the requesting content client. The repository system may also include a cache connected from the repository for storing and providing the content to content clients.
 The repository will typically include at least one repository template associated with the at least one repository connector for formatting content to be stored in or read from the repository, and a data persistence manager associated with the repository manager for managing the duration of storage of content items in the repository.
 The query engine may include a request parser for parsing and deconstructing requests to identify the content items and requirements of each request for content, and at least one query template for formulating a query corresponding to the content items and requirements identified from a content request.
 The content distribution system may include one or more of a dynamic server optimized for the general distribution of content to content clients, and a syndication server for distribution of content to associated content clients. A content distribution system will also include a distribution mechanism for distribution of content to content clients, and a formatting mechanism for formatting content into formats defined by the content clients. A formatting mechanism will include a formatter for receiving content from the repository system and formatting the content for distribution to a content client, wherein the formatter will include a template engine for formatting content and at least one template for defining a format for content.
 Other features, objects and advantages of the present invention will be understood by those of ordinary skill in the relevant arts after reading the following descriptions of a presently preferred embodiment of the present invention, and after examination of the drawings, wherein:
DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 FIGS. 1A and IB are block diagrams of a repository system of the system of the present invention;
 FIG. 2 is a block diagram of a content acquisition system of the system of the present invention;
 FIG. 3 is a block diagram of a syndication server of the system of the present invention; and
 FIG. 4 is a block diagram of content distribution mechanisms of the system of the present invention.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE
 1. Introduction
 The present invention provides a system, referred to herein as a "content exchange system", for the network based acquisition, management and distribution of content. As will be described, a "content exchange system" includes mechanisms for the acquisition of a wide range of forms and types of content from a wide range of types of providers, either under direct control by the providers or a system administrator or automatically under control of acquisitions residing in the "content exchange system". The providers may include, for example, other network sites, databases, syndicators, and networks of enterprises, Web sites, mail servers, databases, and other common sources, including legacy applications and Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) platforms. The acquired content is converted into a form or forms selected for management and manipulation by "content exchange system" and is stored in a repository for distribution to clients. The content management function of a "content exchange system" includes, for example, content update and acquisition functions and data persistence functions. Lastly, a "content exchange system" includes mechanisms for the distribution of content in a wide range of forms to a wide range of types of clients, including syndicated distribution, individual client distribution, and automatic and on request distribution, and channel mechanisms. The distribution mechanisms of a "content exchange system" further include mechanisms for the conversion of the content into a range of forms and formats, and the distribution, format and presentation of content are controllable by the Content Sources.
 As will be described, a "content exchange system" may acquire, store and distribute, for example, transaction data from back-end systems, streaming data feeds, data warehouses, directory servers, and any other dynamic or static data source, as well as "document-style" content. For this reason, it will be understood that for purposes of the following discussions the term "content" includes essentially all types or forms of information or data that may be acquired or distributed through a network. In addition, and while a "content exchange system" includes a repository for storing content for distribution, a "content exchange system" may acquire content from, store content in and, distribute content to a range of types of repositories.
 Also, the individual components of a "content exchange system" may be implemented in a variety of configurations to provide specific focused services or systems emphasizing specific aspects or functions of a "content exchange system", such as content acquisition, content management, syndication, or distribution of content. The elements and components of a "content exchange system" may also be configured to comprise a variety of architectures, including as a distributed web content network wherein elements of a "content exchange system" are implemented across a number of systems or network sites and interconnected through a network, or as web networks to create large integrated systems. For example, certain network sites or servers may perform content acquisition functions, while others may perform the content repository and content distribution functions. In addition, the elements of a "content exchange system" may be implemented, for example, in a distributed fashion across desktops or mobile devices, or as a set of federated or syndicated services, or as a traditional client-server model or as a multi-tier or peerto-peer model. For these reasons, the term "network", in turn, refers to any form of network that may be used for the distribution of data or information and includes, for example, the Internet, while the term "content exchange system" will refer to any configuration of the elements of a "content exchange system", either on a single system or implemented across several systems.
 2. General Description of a Content Exchange System (FIGS. 1A and IB)
 Referring to FIG. 1A, there is illustrated an exemplary Content Web Network 10 including a Content Exchange System 12 for the acquisition, storing and distribution of Content 14. As shown therein a Content Exchange System 12 includes a Repository System 16, an Content Acquisition System 18 and a Content Distribution System 20 residing in a Network Site 22. The Content Exchange System 12, in turn, communicates with one or more Content Sources 24 and one or more Content Clients 26 through a Network 28 which may be comprised, for example, of the Internet, a Local Area Network (LAN), a Wide Area Network (WAN), a Wireless Network or a combination of such networks.
 As will be described further in the following, a Repository System 16 further operates as the central hub of a Content Web Network 10 to both receive and store acquired Content 14 and to distribute acquired Content 10. The Repository System 16 further operates as a central hub for user, system administrator, Content Source 24 and Content Client 26 interactions with a Content Exchange System
12. For example, a user, system administrator or Content Client 26 may submit requests for searches or queries of the acquired Content 14 residing in Repository 38 and Cache 40, or of Content 14 residing in Content Sources 24, and the Repository System 16 mechanisms described above and in the following will respond to fulfill the request, passing the requested Content 14 to Content Distribution System 20 to be provided to the requester.
 A Repository System 16 thereby receives Content 14 from Content Sources 24 through an Content Acquisition System 18, stores, secures and manages the Content 14 in a Repository 38, and provides the Content 14 from the Repository 38 to a Content Distribution System 20 for distribution to Content Client 26. Repository System 16 further includes content management access and mechanisms for Content Sources 24, provides alternate access paths between Content Sources 24 and Content Clients 26, and provides mechanisms for collaboration between and among applications accessing or using Contents 14.
 An Content Acquisition System 18 typically includes retrieval agents for actively fetching or passively accepting Content 14 from Content Sources 24 in a range of forms and formats. An Content Acquisition System 18 further includes parsing and formatting processors for converting or transforming Content 14 from Content Sources 24 into a form or forms for storing in the Repository System 16, including tagging of Content 14 to identify, for example, the sources of or relationships between Content 14 items. An Content Acquisition System 18 also manages content aggregation relationships, including tagging, funneling and aggregating or combining of Content 14 according to desired or selected relationships, such as by type of Content 14, interests of Content Clients 26 or business relationships.
 Lastly, a Content Distribution System 20 may include one or more distribution servers for Content 14 redistribution among partnered, syndicated or otherwise associated, related or cooperating Content Sources 24 and Content Clients 26 and for distribution of Content 14 to Content Clients 26. The Content Distribution System 20 distribution will typically include security mechanisms for controlling access to Content 14 by Content Clients 26, will support selective Content 14 queries and will control access to Content 14 by Content Clients 26. A Content Distribution System 20 may also include mechanisms for converting or formatting stored Content 14 into forms and formats suitable to or desired by various Content Clients 26, and will support the personalization of Content 14 to be distributed to corresponding Content Clients 26.
 It will be understood that, as illustrated in FIG. IB, the elements of a Content Exchange System 12, that is, one or more of each of a Repository System 16, an Content Acquisition System 18 and a Content Distribution System 20, may be distributed and implemented across and in a plurality of Network Sites 22. For example, the Repository System 16, an Content Acquisition System 18 and a Content Distribution System 20 may each reside in a different Network Site 22 and, in such instances, will communicate through, for example, a Network 28. It should also be understood that a Content Exchange System 12 may include, for example, a plurality of Content Acquisition Systems 18 or Content Distribution Systems 20 or any combination of Repository Systems 16, Content Acquisition Systems 18 or