Google Improves Patent Search With Prior Art Finder, Adds Millions Of European Patents

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Google today expanded its search coverage for patents by adding millions of documents from the European Patent Office to Google Patents. Google’s patent search tool went live all the way back in 2006, but only featured U.S. patents until now. In addition, the company also added a “Prior Art Finder” feature to Google Patents that automatically scans the web, Google Patents, Google Scholar and Google Books for key phrases from a patent’s text.

You can insert your own joke about prior art and the ongoing Samsung v. Apple lawsuit here, but this is obviously a pretty useful tool for somebody who is trying to understand how novel a patent really is. In today’s announcement, Google engineering manager Jon Orwant notes that the company hopes 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 also stresses that Google will refine and extend this feature as its engineers and algorithms learn how to better analyze patent claims.

Google and the European Patent Office started working together on a number of projects a while ago. The first result of this cooperation was an improved translation system for patents based on the parallel texts the EU already produces for many of its patents.

In its announcement today, Google also notes that it continues to work with the US Patent & Trademark Office to improve its repository of U.S. patent data and that it will continue to make this data available for bulk download.