December 14, 2006 6:48 AM PST

Google launches patent search site

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Google has added another piece of search software to its arsenal, with the launch of Google Patent Search.

The patent search site, launched as a beta on Wednesday night, is designed to sift through the approximately 7 million U.S. patents by a variety of parameters including filing date, issue date, patent number and inventor.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company may have made a name for itself with the simplest of standard Web search engines. But its niche search software--for geographic data, literature and road maps, to name a few--has been a major part of what has propelled Google to the top of the Internet's pecking order.

As for its newest site, software engineers are still working on functions that allow patent searchers to easily save and print the patent information they look up, according to a Google blog. In addition, Google's site does not currently include patent applications, international patents, or U.S. patents issued since mid-2006, but Google said that enhancements are in the works.

Patents in the United States are issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which has its own patent search engine available on its Web site. In order to create Google's patent search, which goes back to the 1790s, the company converted the government site's data into what it claims is a more searchable format.

Google itself was just awarded another patent, Design Patent No. 533,561 for search results page design, on Wednesday. Throughout the course of 2006, it has also landed patents that deal with voice search technology and mobile advertising. As is often the case with patents, however, not every issuance has gone over smoothly. Google has faced patent infringement lawsuits over its Google Toolbar, Google Earth and Google Talk.

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