Thursday, December 14, 2006

Google presents site allowing search of US patents

IDG noted the existence of a new Google site,, which lets anyone search for U.S. patents by keyword, patent number, inventor and filing date. Users can view a scanned image of the original patent and zoom in on pages.

IDG reported Google said that like its Web search technology, the patent search site uses a number of different signals to evaluate how relevant each patent is to a user's query and then determines results algorithmically. IPBiz has previously noted atrocious indexing in conventional web-searching Google.

IDG quoted Mike Overy: While Google's new offering may ease what is often an incredibly tedious job, it may not be able to fully solve the problem, he said. One issue inherent in new inventions is naming them. "If you've invented what you think is the first gizmo whatsit and you type that into a search engine, you won't find much because the other person who invented it called it something different," he said.

Unlike the current USPTO database, one can readily view figures in the Google database. This makes it easy to see why
Leslie Cosby's US 6,240,576 (issued June 5, 2001) is distinct from Joe Jackson's "toilet underneath the truck seat."

Unlike the current USPTO database, Google lists the (later) patents which cite to the target patent. (One has to hit a key in the USPTO database)

In the case of the Cosby patent, one can see a patent cited by Cosby which looks more like Jackson's invention than does Cosby's: US 5,720,513 to Richard Raukauskas. In turn, the '513 cites to US 4,785,483. Presumably, Michael McKenna readily unearthed these patents.

Because the Google site, unlike the uspto site, includes older patents, one can view the patent of the Wright Brothers, US 821,393, or at least some facsimile of it. Note that Google lists the inventor as "Oltville Wright"; no proof-reading here.

Looking at the first page of the specification, one readily sees that the application was filed May 23, 1903, long before power flight was achieved in December 1903.

Patently-O has some commentary, including:

The accuracy of the OCR on the patent images is not reliable. For example, patent number 1,500,000 is entitled "SUBMERSIBLE VESSEL FOR NAVIGATION UNDER ICE," but Google lists "SUBMERSIBLE VESSEL TOB NAVIGATION UNDEB ICE" as its title. I would be interested to know whether Google OCRs the patents after 1976 even though the text is readily available from the USPTO. I believe that "farming" the text directly from the USPTO would be more accurate than applyning OCR to the images.

In any case, even with the OCR limitations, it is nice to have the ability to run text searches on patents pre-1976.

Another problem is that it confuses foreign patents cited as U.S. patents -- see for example U.S. Patent 6,930,086 (Diglycosylated erythropoietin) -- Google thinks its citing and thus shows links to BOTTLE-WASHER (1889) MACHINE FOE FOLDING AND STITCHING THE EDGES OF CANVAS (1889) and BRIDLE BIT (1900) etc.


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