One might think that Google’s minimalist home page is among the most commonplace of designs. Apparently not. On 2 September, Google obtained a US design patent for the company’s iconic home page, on the basis that it is an innovative “graphical user interface”. Google’s design patent, as distinct from an invention patent, is equivalent to a registered design in Australia under the Designs Act 2003.
The search company received its design patent for a “Graphical user interface for a display screen of a communications terminal”. Importantly, the company logo is not an integral part of the design patent. This means that Google may be able to prevent other companies using substantially similar designs for their search engines, i.e. having a large search box in the centre of the page, with two buttons underneath and various small links above.
It is not yet clear how the patent will be enforced against competitors. Yahoo’s search page, for example, also involves a large search box near the centre of the page with hyperlinks above the box. What is clear, is that people are continually drawn to the simple design of Google’s home page – and this design patent is aimed at protecting some of the aspects of the Google page that have made it popular.
Google’s patent document can be seen at http://tiny.cc/CY8n1