Google’s 10 Oddest Patents

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Google has many patents listed at the USPTO that have little to do with search.

I thought it might make a fun post to make a list of some of the ones that made me scratch my head a little, and wonder why Google might be interested in things like a waterproof cellular telephone case, or a medical instrument that can be “introduced into an animal or human body.”

A number of them appear to describe aspects of the way Google sets up their computer systems, which I also thought people might be interested in. Some others involve wireless communications networks. Here’s my list of the Oddest Patents from Google:

1. Instrument for medical purposes

This medical instrument uses ultrasonic sound to investigate the structural makeup of biological tissue in organs and vessels. An image from the patent:

Google Ultrasonic Medical Instrument

2. Methods to deposit metal alloy barrier layers

Metal alloy barrier layers

This one was originally assigned to Intel and was then assigned to Google in November of 2005.

Its focus is upon solving some of the engineering problems that copper presents during the semiconductor fabrication process. I don’t know if Google is in the business of making chips, but they have a patented process to handle issues around it.

3. Application of a pseudo-randomly shuffled hadamard function in a wireless CDMA system

One of the dominant wireless digital technologies around these days is Code Division Multiple Access, or CDMA. This patent tells us that this is a “unique, novel solution which improves the capacity of CDMA by a factor of four.” They also describe some of the other advantages of CDMA:

Generally, CDMA offers greater signal quality, resulting in clearer calls. Also, CDMA utilizes a spread-spectrum approach, which makes it ideal for deployment in dense urban areas where multi-pathing is an issue. This results in fewer dropped calls. Furthermore, CDMA technology is more power-efficient, thereby prolonging the standby and active battery life. But one of the most attractive features of CDMA is that it offers greater capacity for carrying signals.

The airwaves are divided into several different frequency bands per Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations. A limited segment of the airwaves has been allocated by the FCC for cellular usage. Due to the huge demand for cellular usage and the limited bandwidth that is available, getting a license from the FCC to transmit on a particular frequency band is extremely expensive. By increasing capacity, CDMA enables PCS providers to carry more users per channel. This increased capacity directly translates into greater revenue for cellular companies.

4. Baseband direct sequence spread spectrum transceiver

The abstract from the patent is interesting:

A baseband direct sequence spread spectrum CDMA transceiver. The data signal is modulated with a Hadamard function having pseudorandomly scrambled rows. This data signal is then broadcast baseband, absent a carrier, by a relatively short, mismatched antenna.

The baseband signal is spread out across the DC to 30 MHz spectrum. A low noise, high gain-bandwidth product amplifier boosts the baseband RF signal. A correlator/servo system is used to actively cancel the transmit signal from the received signal. Consequently, the same antenna can be used to receive incoming baseband RF signals as well as transmit baseband RF signals, thereby providing full-duplex operation.

5. Communications network quality of service system and method for real time information

This one talks about ways of managing the quality of service of network communications that need to be sent in real-time. Interestingly, it is referred to in the patent above it involving a broadband transceiver, and it discusses the sending and receiving of voice communications.

6. Drive cooling baffle
7. Cooling baffle and fan mount apparatus
8. Mounting structures for electronics components
9. Cable management for rack mounted computing system

These all share the same inventor and may describe some of the methods that Google came up with in designing some of their internal systems.

10. Cellular telephone case

This patent for a waterproof cellular telephone case was filed in 2002. I wouldn’t say that it’s any indication that Google will be coming out with a telephone, but I’ve been finding it an odd piece in Google’s collection of intellectual property.

Google Cellular Phone Case

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11 thoughts on “Google’s 10 Oddest Patents”

  1. Bill – I’d have to think that those patents are the results of Google’s “20% time”.

    It is evident they don’t put any constrains on what their employees can do during that period. Owning patents is a way to recover the money they invest in the initiative, but I’d like somebody to explain me how this helps the company’s mission.

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  3. Excellent article, Sebastian. Thanks for sharing that. 🙂

    I’m not sure if those are due to 20% time, Hamlet. But I would guess that a lot of the patent filings that we see are. Great story at Google Blogoscoped on How Marissa Mayer Almost Killed AdSense (Kind Of), and More, which describes Paul Buchheit’s initiatives to start Gmail.

    I don’t know about the Borg reference, TheMadHat. But this Business Week article points that way – Google’s Newest Role: Venture Capitalist

  4. I would like to start a thread on patent search ideas.
    My impression of the patent database is that it resembles a termite mound – people have been adding IP “mud” in a random way for years and now it is irrational and illogical. I have found items in years past, and when I try to re-locate said patent with nothing in hand but the memory of the concept, I can’t find it.
    Another area of interest to me is the attempt to protect the patent IP by raising a barrier to anyone finding the patent by obfuscation in the title and abstract.
    Recently I saw a Japanese patent which was 150 pages long. Who can afford to examine. leave alone hire someone to examine, 150 pages of quasi-legal tecnical jargon?


  5. Hi Neumann,

    It can be very difficult refindiing patents that you’ve read before. This blog was partially built out of that frustration, allowing me a place to write some notes and summaries of patent filings that I find interesting.

    As a matter of fact, there are researchers who have focused specifically on the concept of “refinding,” and trying to make it easier for people to locate something that they’ve found before. That’s partially why we have “history” functions on our browsers.

    I think that you are right that the issue is more than a matter of difficulty in finding patents in the USPTO database, though. I wonder if you took the current USPTO database, and gave people the ability to tag patents what you would end up with after a year or so of letting them do that. It would be a fun experiment.

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  7. hahahaha…… i felt very happy after seeing this post..
    Hey Bill after long time i am checking out my subject.
    I have one subject Biomedical Instrumentation in my engineering final year..
    There i came across all these instruments.. Especially most of the biomedical instruments cannot work without Transducers.
    And the first one you mentioned is the device which converts sensory s/g’s to Electrical s/g’s. Same as ECG. But ECG takes beat frequencty-> Electrical.

    Thanks for posting such a post Bill..
    You make me remembered all my Engg sub’s.

    Waiting for similar post Bill 😀

  8. Thanks, abdul.

    You’re welcome.

    I may come out with a followup sometime soon. Google has since filed for some other patents that are on the unusual side.

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