Google has launched a beta of a service that searches patent filings.
The service will initially index seven million patents granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and Google plans to add additional sources in the future.
Patents can be searched for by number, the name of the person filing the patent or by keywords.
Google plans to build an index of patent documents, including images, by scanning the documents and using optical character recognition technology.
The process is similar to the method by which Google scans books for its Book Search service.
While Google Book Search has met with fierce resistance from copyright holders, information in patent filings documents is freely available. The USPTO currently offers online access to the patents through its website.
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