Back on the catching up range again — Google has released a search engine for patent searching which you can find at http://www.google.com/patents . As with practically everything in the Google pantheon it’s in beta. There are currently over seven million US patents in the search engine and Google expects to expand overtime.
After you’ve stared at the front page, shaking your head at the kind of things people will patent (monkey-shaped camera bag, finger puppet, toy skunk — the front page patents are shown at random), you can search. You can do a simple keyword search or explore the advanced search which allows you to search by title, by issue or filing date, by inventor or assignee, and so on.
I did a search for yoga and got 183 results. The results included the title of the patent, patent number and date of filing, and a small excerpt (really too small.) The patent pages themselves are much more extensive. For example, the device for yoga exercising contains a thumbnail of a device drawing (click for full page) as well as a list of patents cited by the application, and a list of patents citing it in turn. There’s also a list of claims for the patents and a pointer to more drawings. A search box on the patent page allows you to search within the patent itself.
If you click on an individual drawing or do a search within a page you’ll get a Google Reader type screen with the page from a patent and the ability to page forward or back, an abstract of the patent, bookmarks to go to individual pages within the filing, a summary of information, and so on.
When I think about the amount of data available here think about how hard this would have been to find even twenty years ago I’m a little gobsmacked, and ashamed of myself for complaining. But if you want to talk about Google Alerts, this would be a great property to have Google Alerts on it. To be able to get ongoing updates via e-mail about what’s being filed, what’s being invented, what’s being cited — MAN that would be nice. Oh, and once again I’d like the ability to be able to sort by date, in this case by filing date. If you could sort by date it would be easy to skim the results and get a sense of when activity was greatest on a particular keyword.