Google has extended its Patent Search facility to include European patents and has added a Prior Art facility. With the patent war over Android going on one has to wonder whether this was to meet an in-house need.
Google's Patent Search isn't new, its been available for United States patents since 2006 and it is a much appreciated resource for anyone who needs to discover what patents already exist.
You might think this would be a fairly small number of inventors but, as the Verge reports, traffic to Patent Search has doubled recently.
Jon Orwant, the leader of Google's Patent Search team, says,
"People are thinking about patents a whole lot more"
and thinks this trend is "correlated" to interest in the various high-stakes mobile patent lawsuits.
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Adding the patents of the European Patent Office is a welcome expansion and there is a spin-off benefit for Google Translate. It was updated earlier this year to incorporate the European Patent Office’s parallel patent texts, allowing the EPO to provide translation between English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Swedish, with more languages scheduled for the future.
The partnership between Google and the EPO enables Google to improve its machine learning technology for technical language and in return Google provides its improved translation service free of charge to the EPO.
The new Prior Art facility seems to be valuable both to inventors and to the legal profession. In order to be granted a patent the inventor has to establish that it is a novel idea - and in the current litigious environment companies and their lawyers might want to show that patents should not have been granted.
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The Google blog claims: With a single click, it searches multiple sources for related content that existed at the time the patent was filed.
It also explains how it works: The Prior Art Finder identifies key phrases from the text of the patent, combines them into a search query, and displays relevant results from Google Patents, Google Scholar, Google Books, and the rest of the web.
This isn't likely to be a perfect solution in the first instance but Google hopes that tool will give patent searchers an additional resource to supplement the search techniques they already use and again there is the prospect of this search facility improving as machine learning techniques provide improved techniques of analyzing patent claims.
Given the problems Google currently faces in patent lawsuits one has to suspect that its own researchers and legal teams will be among the first to try out its capabilities.