When Google launched its patent search engine in 2006 the system only had access to the US Patent and Trademark Office database, which meant European inventors were out of luck.
Euro inventors can now rejoice, though, because Google's patented patent search engine now includes European patents. Better yet, Google's also thrown in a handy prior art finder into its search.
"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," wrote Google engineering manager Jon Orwant in a blog post.
"We'll be refining and extending the prior art finder as we develop a better understanding of how to analyse patent claims and how to integrate the results into the workflow of patent searchers."
The added search functionality will hopefully help inventors avoid future copyright infringement litigation. With the upshot of patent trolls and corporate patent buys it must be nice to have an effective search engine to use when considering if your tech idea is new.
One of the first things you may notice when using the engine is just how messed up the patent system is.
For example, do a basic search and you'll come across legally binding patents like patent 6368227 which defines a method for swinging. That's right, someone convinced the US government that they invented how to swing on a swing set. We expect to see children everywhere in court very soon.
Another alarming file you may find in your search is a "bread refreshing method" patent. The Terrance F Lenahan patent actually articulates a method for "refreshing" bread. Long story short, Lenahan patented toast in 1999.
So if the constant barrage of patent litigation from the likes of Oracle and Apple is not enough to convince you the patent system is broken, just remember a guy was able to somehow patent toast. Breakfast eaters beware.
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