Google has added the ability to search for prior art to its Google Patents search engine, which allows users to browse through patents grants by the European Patent Office and the United States Patent and Trademark Office. This enhanced ability removes much of the time and effort involved in searching for instances of prior art, although it remains to be seen whether the quality of the search results match those of Google’s main search engine.
In order for a patent to be granted, an invention must be new and must not be obvious. Even after a patent has been granted, the most common method of challenging its validity in the course of litigation is to cite prior art. Google is attempting to make the search process easier by introducing this enhanced functionality by identifying key phrases from the patent, turning these into search phrases and searching multiple sources.
Google has worked with the European Patent Office on a separate project to provide translations between a variety of languages, including English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, with more to be included in the future.