Historically, Google is not a litigious company when it comes to patents. The company is now supporting the Prior Art Archive to help patent examiners make better informed decisions on whether to grant an application by making it searchable through Google Patents.

The Prior Art Archive, created in collaboration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Cisco, and the MIT Media Lab, aims to give patent examiners more information when reviewing claims.

Examiners reviewing patent applications should conduct thorough searches of existing technology, reject any attempts to patent existing technology, and develop a clear record of the differences between the patent claims and what came before.

The issue is how documentation for technology is often not easily discoverable and could be located in user manuals, technical specifications, or product marketing materials. As such, examiners could make decisions without all the available information, thus issuing “patents covering existing technology, or not recognize trivial extensions of published research” in the process.

Low quality patents waste money. US companies spend millions of dollars year after year in litigation expenses defending against patents that shouldn’t have been issued. The patent examination process should stop patents from being issued on old or obvious technology. Unfortunately, just because technology is old doesn’t mean it is easy for a patent examiner to find.

With the Prior Art Archive, anyone can upload hard-to-find technical materials to an easily searchable and open collection. Google’s support for the project includes devoting “significant resources to this and other important quality initiatives.”

Searchable through Google Patents, documents from the Archive are labeled with Cooperative Patent Classification codes by Google’s machine learning models.

The labels are a feature we rolled out in Google Patents to help make the most relevant technical materials easier to find. We’ve also recently launched a site accessible to the public and examiners, TDCommons, where companies can publish technical information they don’t want to patent free of charge.

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About the Author

Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: abner@9to5g.com