Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) certainly knows about patents and the struggles of patent infringement and finding patents before infringement, as evidenced by the company being involved in more than 100 patent lawsuits in the last 10 years. Well, if this new technological advance in Internet search results had been made available in 2002, perhaps the number of patent lawsuits might have been greatly diminished.
It’s just a thought, as Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) revealed recently that it has added some features to its Google Patents search feature that would allow for better, more efficient searches not only of specific patent claims, but also what are called “prior art” – records of innovation that came before a specific patent claim.
Google Patents was its own standalone search feature when launched in 2006 and provided users with an opportunity to see the database of patents issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Since then, the search feature has been integrated into Google Search, and now it includes a similar database from the European Patent Office. Also, Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) has added a Prior Art Finder feature, which will allow patent lawyers and applicants to check not only on the patents themselves, but also on any documentation that indicates an innovation prior to the patent being issued.
“Typically, patents are granted only if an invention is new and not obvious,” said Google engineering manager Jon Orwant in a blog post. “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.”
Prior Art Finder pulls keywords and phrases from existing patent descriptions and searches through Google Books, Google Scholar and Google Patents, then through the rest of the World Wide Web.
“The proper question for Google’s tools is whether the new system has a role in the patenting process,” said Dennis Crouch, law professor at the University of Missouri. “At minimum, it is likely an improvement on the quick pre-filing ‘sanity check’ searches that are often conducted by patent applicants and patent attorneys.”
If this new feature will help keep Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) from spending so much money on litigation, then it would be a wise move and one applauded by hedge funds like Julian Robertson’s Tiger Management, which had a $20 million stake in Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) at the end of March as part of its portfolio.