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Google wants to help companies knock out lousy patents for free

Sued for patent infringement?

Google Inc., one of the most-sued companies in the world when it comes to patents, wants to help.

The company is expanding its Google Patents website to make it easier to knock out annoying lawsuits without paying a high-priced lawyer.

The searches are free, and can be used by inventors to see if their idea has merit before filing an application, or for companies that have been threatened with a patent suit and want some idea of what they’re up against.

“This makes it much easier for the public, who may not have a whole lot of expertise, to search like an expert,” said Laura Sheridan, senior patent counsel for the Mountain View, California-based company.


The site makes it easier to find evidence that a patent doesn’t really cover a new invention. Critics of the patent system often point to instances where patents cover old ideas or simply add together things that everyone already knows. The problem is finding the data to back up those claims without paying thousands of dollars in legal fees.

When looking at an issued US patent on the Google site, a click of a button called “prior art” will call up possibly related information from foreign patents and the millions of research journals and papers through Google Scholar.

“If you’ve never experienced litigation before, you have something you can use to assess the patent yourself,” Sheridan said.

It also can be used by companies that want to challenge patents through the review process at the US Patent and Trademark Office, which has been called a “death squad” for its high rate of invalidating issued patents.

The patent office is working on its own initiative to improve the analysis done by examiners to make sure only true inventions get the powerful legal protection of a patent.


Congress is considering legislation that would force patent owners to provide more information before filing suit, or get the loser to pay the winner’s legal fees. None of the provision would address the patent application process.

The Google Patents search engine, begun in 2006, has a database of all US patents dating back to 1790 as well as more recent European patents. With the expansion, searchers also will be able to access translations of foreign patents, particularly those from China and other Asian nations.