Report:Google Patent Search/Data Coverage/Patent Coverage/Images
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There are two types of patent images available through Google Patents: PDF and PNG images.
As most readers will be aware, PDF patent copies are viewed via Adobe software products. PDF is the typical format for patent information users to download and save patent copies; many of these US patent copies are even provided free on the web through a variety of free sources such as esp@cenet. To download a PDF copy of any patent available in Google Patents, users just need to select and download the patents of interest (documents can be downloaded individually; no bulk downloading service is available). More about downloading patent copies is discussed in the Document Delivery section.
The more unusual image type available through Google Patents is the PNG format: although patents are downloaded through the service in PDF format, they are viewed through the web interface as PNG images. Displaying patents in this image format allows the system to store and load these images in a web browser without needing to rely on Adobe Viewer as an ancillary program. Because of Google’s extensive network of computer resources, the document images available through Google Patents load very quickly. Additionally, they are loaded as full images (rather than the page-by-page view supported by esp@cenet). All of these factors combine to make image viewing in Google Patents very efficient.
Another beneficial feature of the PNG images is that the system has enabled keyword highlighting within them. Google has departed from the normal methodology of patent search engines, which generally provide the electronic text of patents in an html webpage. Instead, Google Patents seems to superimpose the electronic text over the patent image itself, offering a keyword highlighting feature that appears in the actual patent image. By using a mini-search bar to enter keyword terms, users can cause words in the patent image to appear with pale yellow highlighting over them. This ability to see the keyword hits as they actually appear in the document image is a unique feature of Google Patents. It is very useful to patent information professionals, as it allows them to refer to column and line numbers to cite interesting passages from the text.
Finally, Google Patents offers a unique way of displaying patent drawing images. In order to view drawings through most services, users must either download the PDF patent copy, or be redirected to the esp@cenet drawing mosaic. Google Patents appears to be the first search service to change that, by offering the full patent image directly from the browser window, no downloading required. Not only does the web-based PNG image load quickly, allowing users to view each drawing page of the patent documents without any load or wait times, the service also allows users to scan the drawing pages by providing thumbnail images of each drawing page from the Patent Summary page. More about viewing patent drawings is discussed in the Viewing Patent Full Text and Images section.
Currently, Google Patents is probably the fastest way to browse US patent images on the web. This feature makes it highly beneficial for mechanical searchers, who often need to review the drawings from a large number of documents in the course of a patent search.