Google this week expanded its online patent search feature to include those filed with the European Patent Office. The update also includes a "Prior Art Finder" to make it easier to determine if someone already holds a patent for a given idea.
"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," Jon Orwant, a Google engineering manager, wrote in a blog post.
"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," he added.
"Our hope is that this tool will give patent searchers another way to discover information relevant to a patent application, supplementing the search techniques they use today," he continued. "We'll be refining and extending the Prior Art Finder as we develop a better understanding of how to analyze patent claims and how to integrate the results into the workflow of patent searchers."
Earlier this year, Google Translate got an update that allowed for the European Patent Office to translate patents between English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Swedish. More languages are planned, Orwant said.
Prior art was a major topic of discussion at the Samsung-Apple patent trial this week. Two of Samsung's witnesses, Benjamin Bederson and Adam Bogue, were called to discuss the topic, according to the Wall Street Journal, which is important because Samsung is trying to prove that Apple did not come up with a major new technology when it conceived of a rectangular tablet eventually released as the iPad.