Google Patent Search = Free Ideas for Google?

Thinking about innovating? Maybe you’re a Web application startup and think you have the next big idea? Until now, your choice in figuring out if someone has already patented your big idea has pretty much boiled down to hiring a patent attorney, paying for an exhaustive search, get legal interpretation on what’s possible and then file your own patent if warranted.

While much of that legal work won’t go away, Google’s launch of a Patent Search beta goes a long way toward making the patent process just a tad bit more transparent — and holds the promise of being an extremely empowering tool for understanding what intellectual property already exists.

I’ve written twice before (here and here) about Nathan Myhrvold’s Intellectual Ventures…an organization seemingly trying to “corner the market” on the most likely and viable patentable ideas in order to build a portfolio of licensable patents (every cell of my being rails against that, by the way).

Here’s the possible “gotcha” with Google’s new “Global Database of Ideas” patent search offering and reveals yet another part of their strategy to infiltrate every corner of the Web and monetize every possible data stream.

In John Batelle’s book “The Search“, he introduced the phrase “Database of Intention” that was the result of millions of us signaling what we’re interested in every single time we search, and Google collecting that data so as to monetize our intentions (initially with targeted advertising). This has worked out pretty well for them, don’t ya think?

As long as the world is telling you what they’re seeking, why not analyze and harvest the hottest trends? Google Trends demonstrates one way the gathering of all of these intentions can result in knowledge about our intentions and is a powerful predictive analytics body of data that probably has some worth too (sarcasm intended).

The incredibly powerful and free Google Analytics has created huge incentives for all of us with Web properties — and needing to determine ROI and traffic — to gleefully paste their analytics code all over our pages so Google can know the intimate details of content, clickstream, advertising and other data.

Google Maps (and the API they’ve offered to access it) has resulted in a HUGE number of map mashups and is an extremely clever ploy to get the most valuable geo-centric databases tied directly into Google and so they have a window into these datasets.

The gotcha? What if Google Patent Search results in them gathering the world’s ideas, harvesting the best ones, quickly patenting them and dwarfing Myhrvold’s roomful-of-lawyers-with-tablets approach? At a minimum, I know I’d love to have all the smart creatives and innovators in the world playing “What if’s?” searching on ideas and seeing if their ideas are already out there. It’d make it a helluva lot easier to push on the membrane of the future, get better glimpses into what is possible and where to place my bets.

Nah…they’re delivering all of these offerings just to be nice to innovators, inventors, entrepreneurs and because they think Web 2.0 is cool.

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  1. kage on February 25, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    i had the exact train of thought, to the t. i’m simply hoping that they stick to “do no evil” 🙂

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About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.