Let's face it. The patent system is a mess. Applying for a patent can be a process that takes years. Then there's the issue of prior art. Is this patent valid? Was it obvious? Should it have been granted in the first place? And that's without getting into whether or not other devices infringe. It can be a huge cluster of ugly. Enter AskPatents. This new Stack Exchange site has been set up to crowd source the finding of prior art and researching whether or not patents are valid.
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.