Michael Agger in Slate:
Three weeks ago, Google introduced its new search service, Google Patents. The jokes followed pretty much immediately. Unmentionable medical devices were dragged into the cold light of day. Sex toys and flatulence deodorizers were uncovered and mocked. The inventors of the bong, the keggerator, and the Nerf football were celebrated. It was as though a band of drunken Sigma Chis had crashed a party for patent lawyers.
Now that the buzz is wearing off, it’s time to ask what Google Patents is actually good for. The wizards of Mountain View have stated that their corporate ethos is to organize all of human knowledge. But why is it that Google’s search technology often seems like a killer app for ending pointless conversations? With the debut of Google Patents, a question from a cubicle mate along the line of, “Do you think my American Idol board game idea will make me rich?” can be answered with the near-universal reply, “I don’t know. Google it.”