Google strengthens its patent search

Google announced Thursday it was strengthening its “Google Patents” search to help in determining whether a new patent application is valid. 

The search giant announced it will now allow people to search in one place for both previously patented material and other "prior art" that may be relevant to a new patent application. 

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Prior art is the entirety of public information that helps examiners determine whether a patent application is new and original. That can be a search of previous patents as well “non-patent prior art” like books, articles or manuals. All such information will be in one place. 

“Good patents support innovation while bad patents hinder it,” the company said in a blog post. “Bad patents drive up costs for innovative companies that must choose between paying undeserved license fees or staggering litigation costs.” 

The new search will be able to comb Google Scholar using a standardized patent language used in the United States and Europe. It will also be able to search through foreign patents using Google Translate. 

As the number of patent applications increases, Google said it is important to weed out bad ones.

It cited the rise in the rate of patent litigation in 2015. It attributed the majority of that to patent trolls, who can sometimes use a vague or overbroad patent to sue multiple companies over infringement. 

Congress is working on legislation aimed at reforming some court procedures that can be exploited by trolls, and Google is part of a coalition of backers. The U.S. Patents and Trademark Office (PTO) has also tried to put a renewed focus on patent quality. 

In comments to the PTO earlier this year, Google said its new search function could help examiners conduct pre-examination searches, which could cut down on a more time consuming review.