There's (yet) another way to search patents on the internet: A new patent database/IP exchange portal called Patents.com has just launched. Patents.com is the brainchild of Robert Monster, a hi-tech venture capitalist, authority on market research and former product developer for Procter and Gamble, and Paul Ratcliffe, a patent attorney and founder of PatentMonkey.com, a patent search site that operated from early 2006 to January 2008.
Patents.com searches full text US utility, reissue and design patents, US applications (including plant patent applications) and European patent documents (from 1998 forward?). Detailed content information is lacking, but it appears that US coverage starts in 1976 (2001 for applications, of course). The most recent data retrieved was from patents issued on Aug. 26. EP coverage is more difficult to determine. Several test searches retrieved no patents before 1999. PDFs are available for US docs but not EP docs. Machine translation for fifteen langauges is offered.
Simple search allows simple word searches (no phrase searching or boolean operators). Advanced search allows users to search two or more terms using Boolean operators and wildcards. Expert search allows users to construct complicated fielded queries. Bulk search retrieves multiple documents by patent number. A cluster function groups keywords into a browsable list. At first glance, searches against US docs retrieve similar results as searches done in the USPTO database. It's more difficult to evaluate searches on EP docs as the coverage is unknown and there seem to be problems with some of the fields. I never could get the date range search to work properly.
Performance is faily fast, but the image view caused Firefox 3.0.1 to crash twice. There's a lot more to explore... for example the Community and IP Exchange sites...