Search giant Google has taken another step in its quest to index all of human knowledge. This week, Google introduced a new section of its Google Patent search which allows anyone to search not only existing patents, but also prior art. Google’s introduction to its new Patent search:

“Typically, patents are granted only if an invention is new and not obvious. To explain why an invention is new, inventors will usually cite prior art such as earlier patent applications or journal articles. Determining the novelty of a patent can be difficult, requiring a laborious search through many sources, and so we’ve built a Prior Art Finder to make this process easier. With a single click, it searches multiple sources for related content that existed at the time the patent was filed.”

Jon Orwant, the head of Google’s Patent Search team, stated that web traffic to Patent Search has doubled recently, a trend that he attributes to an increase in high-profile, high-stakes patent litigation. “People are thinking about patents a whole lot more,” he notes. One of the biggest examples of this type of patent litigation is the Apple v. Samsung battle. Hopefully, Apple and Samsung can use this search in the future to prevent them from stepping on each other’s toes, which could end up in billion-dollar lawsuits.

The new Patent Search does beg a couple of questions: As most lawyers are aware, one should not give legal advice to someone who is not a client, could this new search rise to the level of prior art? How much reliance may users place on Google’s efforts to index all patents and prior art? And most importantly, perhaps Google should do a search to makes sure there is no prior art for a prior art search. The irony would be almost too much to handle.


Brandon Trout

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4 Responses to Google Debuts New Patent Search

  1. Brandon Trout says:

    I also wonder what the implications would be for Google if it gets sued (or sues) another company for patent infringement. It seems that there is an inherent conflict of interest in advertising a patent search system, and then being able to turn around and sue a company that uses it and fails to find a relevant Google patent.

  2. Raymond Rufat says:

    This is interesting. I wonder what kind of effect this will have on patent lawyers. While it is undoubtedly helpful for those seeking to patent an idea or research whether they have come up with something novel, this may have implications on the job market. This is similar to websites like Legal Zoom that have put some valuable legal tools directly in the hands of consumers, while cutting out the middle man, the attorney. Could this Google function do the same.

  3. Mike Ritter says:

    Google Patent search was already a very useful tool: it provided free PDFs and searchable text for thousands of patents. This looks like it could make the tool even more useful, however, I am skeptical of how accurate the prior art searches will be, especially at the beginning. Nevertheless, if the searches are accurate, I also wonder if USPTO will begin relying on this tool. If one has identified a patent as potential prior art to a current application, access to Google’s list of other potential prior art is free and one click away. Perhaps this will help to expedite the patent application process.

  4. Joel Slater says:

    Google’s legal search in Google Scholar is actually pretty decent so long as you know what you’re looking for. It’s lighter-weight than Westlaw/Lexis, so on work [read: underpowered] computers you can have multiple cases open at once without slowing down your computer. I’ve become accustomed to using Westlaw for broad searches and then pulling up individual docs with Google Scholar. Perhaps, patent research will be the same way now?