Report:Google Patent Search/Viewing Results/Viewing Patent Full Text and Images
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Viewing Full Text/Viewing Document Images
From the hit list, selecting any hyperlinked title will load the Patent Summary page for that patent. This page hosts the patent’s available bibliographic data, and for 1976 patents it also displays electronic text for the abstract and claims. At the bottom, the page also shows each drawing from the patent in miniature, representing a unique way to visually skim patent drawings in miniature akin to the patent mosaics available from esp@cenet. (However, unlike esp@cenet mosaics, these drawings appear quickly right on the webpage, and do not load in an Adobe viewer.)
An update to Google Patent Search in July 2009 substantially changed the look and feel of the individual result view. The original version featured a two-columned layout that placed the patent abstract and claims next to one another; the new version has a dominant right column that structures all patent information sequentially, i.e., abstract on top, followed by citations, claims, and thumbnail drawing images. The reduced left column contains only a very small representation of the patent front page, some navigation links, basic bibliographic data, and the "Search within this patent" bar discussed below.
Though consistent with other search engines, user reaction to the new interface has been mixed. The original double-paned view was lauded for providing quick access to the most important patent information with a minimum of scrolling required, an advantage lost with the new sequential style.
A few features of the Patent Summary page require further discussion. First, clicking any link to a section of the patent document (e.g. “abstract”, “description,” “claims”, or the numbers of drawing pages at the bottom, like “page 1” etc.) will load the full patent image, beginning at the selected text section. A few links that don’t load the full image actually link to information on the USPTO website: there is a link to view the USPTO data for the document, and the US classifications are linked to US class definitions hosted by the site.
In the thinner panel on the left is a small search bar labeled “Search within this patent.” Entering keyword terms into this bar produces a mini-hit list of all the instances in the document where that term appears, displayed as a highlighted clipping from the PDF version of the document. The figure below shows the result of entering the keyword “hamster” into the search bar (the mini-search bar supports Boolean operators and phrase searching).
The "Search within this patent" bar searches the OCRed version of the PDF image. The typical caveats associated with OCRed images apply fully here, including poor word recognition.
Interestingly, it appears that Google is sharing their Google Books technology with the Patents product, as the implementation of text searching and display is nearly identical. One notable side effect of that technology sharing arrangement is that the text of the search results page refers to a "book" rather than a "patent" or "document."
Selecting one of the links (“page 1”… “page 13”… etc) or clicking the image itself from within this list of internal keyword hits will load the full text image, beginning at the page of interest. When the document loads, the keyword terms will appear in yellow highlighting. The browser has now navigated into the full text image view.
After this type of search has been performed, the locations of the keyword search terms are now graphically represented in the full document. In the figure below, a series of colored bars on the right side of the screen represents the keyword hits. Selecting any of the bars will cause the browser to navigate to the page where those hits are located. Hovering over one of the bars will cause a keyword-in-context display to pop up. The bars are blue by default, but turn yellow when the user is viewing the area represented by the bar. The figure below shows this graphical representation.
This enhancement can be considered a major improvement to the functionality of Google Patent Search, especially because the older system of keyword searching within the documents often seemed to be broken. Although other patent search systems use a similar display to show where keyword hits occur within the document, the ability to see excerpts by mousing over the bars is rather unusual. However, other systems can still boast multi-term highlighting features supporting a rainbow of various colors, something Google Patent Search has not implemented. In addition, because of the scanning errors and other issues identified within the underlying database, the system still cannot be relied on to produce a comprehensive text search.
The full document image view can be navigated in a number of ways: by scroll bar, by left and right arrows, or by a click and drag select tool like the one available in Adobe Viewer. It can also be navigated using the links that appear in the left panel, which contains an abbreviated version of the Patent Summary page (including the “Search within this patent” bar). It includes links to section breaks, but the claims, citations and thumbnail drawing images are not available here.
To change the highlighting within the document, users can search for new keyword terms using the min-search bar. However, the highlighting will not change immediately. Users must perform the search and then select one of the resulting hits before the highlighting will re-set itself. One glitch in the system is that sometimes the highlighting will remain stuck on the old terms after new ones are searched. The Google support staff did not provide any assistance when asked whether this was a known problem, and whether it would be resolved.
Although zoom tools are provided at the top of the page to allow users to investigate portions of the document (specifically drawings) more closely, the image can also be expanded to take up the entire browser window. By selecting the “full screen” link at the top of the page, the image can be magnified to a greater degree without cutting off a section of the page.
The full patent document can also be viewed as a series of thumbnail images by clicking the "Thumbnails" button. The size of individual thumbnails cannot be altered, so users with high display resolutions may find that legibility suffers.
Should the user note an error or omission in the full patent document, Google may be notified by clicking the "Feedback" button in the upper right corner of the screen. This option allows users to tag the page as either missing, or unreadable.
One unusual tool that can be found on the full image view (and full screen view) is the Clip tool, which allows users to capture interesting portions of the document as an image or text fragment, to be embedded in blogs or other web pages. To read more about this tool, see the Other Features section of this article.
Google Patent Search offers a unique interface that makes viewing the patent’s electronic full text synonymous with viewing its image. The user interfaces discussed in this section were totally unique (for a web service) at the time the system was released. One specific feature that must be discussed, but that is not visible from any screenshot, is that the patent images on Google Patent Search load very, very quickly. In this sense the system represents a huge advance over other patent image viewing systems, which required users to either download PDF images, or to load the images from external sites like esp@cenet or the USPTO website, in order to view them. There is no comparison between the lightning speed of patent image browsing available in Google Patent Search, and the other web-based alternatives, and this represents a huge boost in efficiency to the average patent searcher (especially to those in the mechanical arts that rely on patent drawings).
The thumbnail view is another tool which enhances the user's ability to view patent drawings via the system, already one of its greatest strengths. However, as the size of the images are unalterable, this feature is not really useful as a quick scan method of viewing patent drawings. It is more useful when attempting to toggle between interesting images or to get a general overview of what each drawing page might contain.