While Google is getting more and more involved in the patent wars that muddy up innovation in the tech industry these days, especially in defending Android and Android partners, they have helped by creating a patent search. For a few years now the Google patent search engine has given potential innovators and curious bystanders a way to effectively search the highly obfuscated patent system of the US, and now they offer a new feature: Prior Art search.
Assuming they don't start to muddy the results themselves, which they have avoided in ordinary searches for a decade now, this could be a way to navigate an over expansive patent system, at least until (if) it gets fixed. To make any technology or software these days seems likely to infringe on someone's broad and poorly defined patent, so this could be a way to work around it, as well as is possible with such a fucked up system. Hell, the US patent system let Apple patent a search bar and rounded edged rectangular phones. Patents are supposed to protect, for limited times innovative and non obvious inventions, not styles and features.