Trends in Search Related Patents

I thought it might be interesting to take a handful of phrases, and see how many times (year-by-year) that they were mentioned in granted patents and published patent applications at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). I chose the following to look at: Internet, Search Engine, Algorithm, Google, and Yahoo!

The USPTO granted patents database allows full text searches from 1976, and the USPTO published patent applications database includes patent applications from 2001, so I was limited by those dates.

I also looked for the first mention of these phrases in the granted patents database. If the terms were first mentioned prior to 1976, I couldn’t search for those (so the first mention of “Algorithm” isn’t included here).

The first granted patent (1997) which mentions “Yahoo!” is one from IBM – Itinerary list for interfaces.

“Google” appears first in a granted patent (2001) presently listed as being assigned to Ask Jeeves, Inc. (purchased from Excellerate, LLC) – Search engine using indexing method for storing and retrieving data.

I found a first showing of a granted patent (1984) mentioning “Internet” being assigned to Telebit Corporation – Packetized ensemble modem.

The “search engine” numbers may be off – according to the Help section of the USPTO for patents, using quotation marks is supposed to return an exact match for a phrase. However, it doesn’t. The first listed patent includes the phrase “search for an engine” rather than just “search engine.” The third USPTO patent granted mentioning “search engine” and first to actually mean a “search engine” is Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.’s High speed intelligent distributed control memory system”. Not the kind of search engine that we are used to these days, though.

I would have liked to include the numbers from new patents filed each year, but those amounts aren’t accessible from the online USPTO databases.

USPTO Published Patent Applications (from 2001)

Mention “Internet”

2001 – 5,264 applications
2002 – 27,878 applications
2003 – 32,338 applications
2004 – 35,424 applications
2005 – 41,559 applications
2006* – 41,691 applications

Mention “Search Engine”

2001 – 290 applications
2002 – 1,463 applications
2003 – 1,383 applications
2004 – 1,483 applications
2005 – 1,918 applications
2006* – 2,004 applications

Mention “Algorithm”

2001 – 3,485 applications
2002 – 17,996 applications
2003 – 25,203 applications
2004 – 25,203 applications
2005 – 29,118 applications
2006* – 27,983 applications

Mention “Google”

2001 – 7 applications
2002 – 72 applications
2003 – 110 applications
2004 – 169 applications
2005 – 353 applications
2006* – 616 applications

Mention “Yahoo!”

2001 – 110 applications
2002 – 444 applications
2003 – 431 applications
2004 – 519 applications
2005 – 641 applications
2006* – 846 applications

USPTO Granted Patents (from 1976)

Mention “Internet”

1984 – 1 patent
1985 – 0 patents
1986 – 0 patents
1987 – 2 patents
1988 – 0 patents
1989 – 10 patents
1990 – 11 patents
1991 – 6 patents
1992 – 10 patents
1993 – 22 patents
1994 – 59 patents
1995 – 84 patents
1996 – 217 patents
1997 – 419 patents
1998 – 1,740 patents
1999 – 3,389 patents
2000 – 5,055 patents
2001 – 6,905 patents
2002 – 8,810 patents
2003 – 11,031 patents
2004 – 13,800 patents
2005 – 14,368 patents
2006* – 20,358 patents

Mention “Search Engine”

1988 – 1 patent
1989 – 0 patents
1990 – 2 patents
1991 – 3 patents
1992 – 2 patents
1993 – 7 patents
1994 – 8 patents
1995 – 12 patents
1996 – 16 patents
1997 – 39 patents
1998 – 110 patents
1999 – 266 patents
2000 – 303 patents
2001 – 371 patents
2002 – 452 patents
2003 – 570 patents
2004 – 629 patents
2005 – 597 patents
2006* – 842 patents

Mention “Algorithm”

1976 – 201 patents
1977 – 256 patents
1978 – 326 patents
1979 – 262 patents
1980 – 336 patents
1981 – 399 patents
1982 – 431 patents
1983 – 409 patents
1984 – 668 patents
1985 – 856 patents
1986 – 997 patents
1987 – 1,353 patents
1988 – 1,388 patents
1989 – 2,152 patents
1990 – 2,055 patents
1991 – 2,398 patents
1992 – 2,622 patents
1993 – 3,195 patents
1994 – 3,759 patents
1995 – 4,210 patents
1996 – 5,287 patents
1997 – 5,538 patents
1998 – 8,486 patents
1999 – 8,730 patents
2000 – 9,373 patents
2001 – 10,617 patents
2002 – 11,154 patents
2003 – 12,414 patents
2004 – 13,261 patents
2005 – 12,533 patents
2006* – 17,521 patents

Mention “Google”

2001 – 1 patent
2002 – 5 patents
2003 – 16 patents
2004 – 20 patents
2005 – 27 patents
2006* – 67 patents

Mention “Yahoo!”

1997 – 1 patent
1998 – 12 patents
1999 – 47 patents
2000 – 67 patents
2001 – 70 patents
2002 – 125 patents
2003 – 139 patents
2004 – 169 patents
2005 – 143 patents
2006* – 278 patents

* – Doesn’t include most of December, 2006.

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8 thoughts on “Trends in Search Related Patents”

  1. There does seem to be an upward trend there in those terms being present in patents, doesn’t there? Does keep me busy.

    I like some of the tools for searching the USTPO databases, but there are some other things that they could do to make them better, and I wish that they would.

  2. U r my hero Bill! Thanks for providing so much cool USPTO analysis. This post is an especially cool idea. I wish I had more to add to the conversation. I’m wondering though, what was the 1988 – 1 patent for the word ‘Search Engine’ all about?

  3. Thanks, Phil.

    Good question on the “search engine” in that patent. Here’s the text that mentions it from that 1988 patent:

    Each chip in the array of the preferred embodiment contains a binary search engine. One of the major functions of this engine is to make the memory content addressable. When more than one chip is used in a single system, some method must be provided to extend the internal binary search to the entire array.

    This was back when hardware was relied upon much more than software to run different electronics gadgets. The hands down best illustrations of that which I’ve seen are from Steve Wozniak in a recent presentation he gave at Google – Authors @ Google: Steve Wozniak (Google Video – November 17, 2006).

  4. Thanks for this wonderful analysis.
    I wonder how these figures relate to the general increase in patent applications in the US (or worldwide).

  5. Hi Hans.

    Thank you.

    I wondered the same thing myself. The databases only go back so far – 2001 for patent applications, and 1976 for full text granted patents, and no way to search for the actual number of filings per year. But, I can do a date range search on those databases to see how many patent applications were published, and how many patents were granted in the United States during those years. Here’s what I came up with:

    patent applications published

    2001 – 56,404
    2002 – 199,005
    2003 – 237,089
    2004 – 268,398
    2005 – 289,617
    2006 – 277,550 (not including the last three weeks of December)

    Patents granted

    1976 – 75,521
    1977 – 69,886
    1978 – 70,604
    1979 – 52,498
    1980 – 66,219
    1981 – 71,114
    1982 – 63,307
    1983 – 62,016
    1984 – 72,681
    1985 – 77,274
    1986 – 77,041
    1987 – 89,598
    1988 – 84,439
    1989 – 102,690
    1990 – 99,220
    1991 – 106,840
    1992 – 107,511
    1993 – 109,890
    1994 – 113,704
    1995 – 113,955
    1996 – 121,805
    1997 – 124,147
    1998 – 163,203
    1999 – 169,145
    2000 – 176,082
    2001 – 184,046
    2002 – 184,418
    2003 – 187,047
    2004 – 181,319
    2005 – 157,740
    2006 – 186,299 (not including the last three weeks of December)

    Quite a dramatic leap from 2001 to 2002,, with almost four times as many patent applications published. The amount of granted patents has also increased tremendously.

  6. Hi Mike.

    Good to see you. It’s relly difficult coming up with a term or phrase that captures what you mean by local search. I often catch those when doing other searches.

    I did try “local search” as my term, but I would guess that out of the following, less than 5 actually have anything to do with the concept of a geographically biased search. Instead, they mostly focus upon searching locally within a client device or a local network.

    Patent applications

    2001 – 13
    2002 – 64
    2003 – 74
    2004 – 95
    2005 – 122
    2006 – 166

    granted patents

    1978 – 1
    1983 – 1
    1985 – 1
    1987 – 1
    1988 – 4
    1989 – 3
    1990 – 4
    1991 – 5
    1992 – 6
    1993 – 2
    1994 – 2
    1995 – 8
    1996 – 13
    1997 – 10
    1998 – 30
    1999 – 30
    2000 – 25
    2001 – 28
    2002 – 37
    2003 – 46
    2004 – 37
    2005 – 35
    2006 – 62

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