The Google Panda Patent: Why and How Many?

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*I have been a patent agent for 5 years and a patent attorney for 2 years.

I will begin by saying a patent is not a right of use; it is the right to prevent others from use. In theory you could obtain a patent you never intend to use for the sole purpose of stopping others from use (i.e. patent trolling).

After reading the Google Patent Panda I had two thoughts. Why? And where’s the missing parts? Why would Google decide to patent/reveal its secret algorithms now? Google has treated its algorithms as trade secrets. I assume Google has protected these trade secrets with a Non-Disclosure Agreements to potential partners and Non-Compete Clause to employees. The Search Engine Optimization Industry attempts daily to solve this algorithm. With such a high prize for the solution and an analytical industry priding itself in getting to the first page, there is still a clout of mystery around the algorithm.

1) I present two theories to why Google wanted the patent. A) Someone figured out the algorithm or has come close enough to warrant Google proactively obtaining a patent. Perhaps it was a reaction to the churn of Google employees to Facebook, Twitter, and Yahoo. B) Perhaps the patent serves as a barrier to one specific search engine in one specific market: Baidu (China’s massive search engine) in Asia. Baidu which is nicknamed “China’s Google” started with a patent. Its US patent was for a RankDex site-scoring algorithm for search engines results page ranking. Baidu’s patent served as the basis for the original iteration of its engine. Baidu has already targeted Japan and South Korea as areas of potential growth. Google’s Panda patent filed with the World Intellectual Patent Organization (WIPO) gives it protection. Japan and South Korea’s enforcement of Intellectual Property is far stricter than China’s, especially in the technology fields. In these two countries, a patent goes a long way.

2) The second point is the Google Panda Patent seems unfinished. Many believe the patent has nothing to do with the Panda update. Some suggest Google obtained the patent for the sole purpose of not using it and cite owning a patent does not mean you used the invention. Maybe Google wanted a future shield or sword against competitors. I disagree. I believe there are more “Panda” patents to come. One strategy I was taught is to draft important patent applications in batches. By itself this patent seems incomplete. But what if Google sent in several patent applications and this is simply the first to be approved? Good things come in bunches.