Google has launched a tool to enable businesses to check multiple sources to see if their 'innovative product' is actually new.

The search giant has made US patents available online since 2006, and is now doing the same for ideas filed in the EU.

The 'Prior Art Finder' tool allows users to search the European Patent Office and the United States Patent and Trademark Office, as well as other sources, for information relevant to their patent applications.

"To explain why an invention is new, inventors will usually cite prior art, such as earlier patent applications or journal articles. Determining the novelty of a patent can be difficult, requiring a laborious search through many sources, and so we've built a Prior Art Finder to make this process easier.

"With a single click, it searches multiple sources for related content that existed at the time the patent was filed," Jon Orwant, engineering manager at Google, wrote in a blog.

Identifying key phrases from the text of the patent, the tool displays results from Google Patents, Google Scholar, Google Books and the rest of the web.

However, Orwant was keen to stress that the tool is still in its early development stages.

"We'll be refining and extending the Prior Art Finder as we develop a better understanding of how to analyse patent claims and how to integrate the results into the workflow of patent searchers," he said.