Earlier today, Google rolled out a brand new feature for its online patent research tool: prior art search. Now, while looking at a patent, you can click a single button to pull up a host of results from Google Patents, Google Scholar, Google Books, with a bit of Google's typical search results sprinkled on top. The goal, of course, is to aid in researching whether a patent that's been filed is "new and not obvious." Which is far more complex than it sounds.
Reading between the lines, one could possibly infer that Google wants to make it easier on its partners (or itself) to prove their inventions are unique, or to avoid infringing patents that have already been granted (which is different from a patent that has been filed, mind you). That being said, while it might expedite the process a bit for researchers doing grunt work, you can bet that the net effect won't be substantial. In cases like the current Samsung vs. Apple, neither party would present significantly different evidence if they'd had access to this tool. The information is already available, Google's just making it simpler to find.
Speaking of information that's already available, Google's also adding the European Patent Office to its databases. The search giant has also been using the EPO to help make Google Translate better by comparing the same patents in different languages, so it's no surprise that the data is finally being integrated with the Google Patents tool.
Source: Google Inside Search Blog