Google has expanded the tools at inventors' disposal to help them protect against opportunitistic court action, or 'patent trolls'.
The search engine giant today announced it had added Chinese, German, and Canadian patents as well as those registered with the World Intellectual Property Organisation or WIPO, to its patents search engine.
United States and European Patent Office patents are already available through the search engine, alongside the Prior Art Finder that scans Google Patents, Scholar and Books and the web to discover past work.
Several million patent documents are available through the patents search engine, in their original languages or in English with the help of Google Translate.
Google's engineering manager Jon Orwant said the company hopes its search engine and the new features incorporated into it "will improve the quality of patents in the US and worldwide".
Low quality and bad patents are attractive to so-called non-practicing entities who embark on costly litigation against companies and organisations to take advantage of unclear property rights and broad claims in patent filings.
A US study last year placed the cost of patent litigation at a minumum of $29 billion in 2011. Another recent study by the American revisor, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), noted that "patent trolls" accounted for a fifth of all such cases between 2007 and 2011.
The GAO survey noted that software-related patents accounted for 89 per cent of the total increase in defendants from 2007 to 2011 and many of the cases were brought against non-technology companies such as public transport agencies, small businesses and retailers.
Patents have transformed from being a tool to protect ideas into valuable corporate assets since the 1980s. Now the the identity of patent trolls as well as those who would benefit from the legal action is kept hidden on purpose, GAO says.
In June this year, US president Barack Obama asked his administration to create new regulation and requested Congress to write new laws to curb frivolous patent infringement lawsuits, calling them "a drain on the American economy."
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