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PatMedia was developed by the Informatics and Telematics Institute (CERTH-ITI), a Greek organization, and according to the PatMedia website it was also supported by "related European projects." It is a search engine that uses a number of methods to search primarily for patent drawing images. It appears to search only EP patent documents at this time.
The service is described as a "Hybrid Retrieval Engine," which means it can search both patent text (including drawing descriptions), and patent drawing images. The patent drawing search, called "visual search" in the product, is apparently done using a proprietary method that the site refers to as "Adaptive Hierarchical Density Histograms." The service appears to be free to the public at this time.
The visual search function requires the user to upload an image of interest. No format limitations are explicitly spelled out by the system, however, testing shows that common image formats such as GIF and PNG will be accepted.
The results of an image search will be displayed as thumbnails of the search "hits," or in other words, thumbnails of the patent drawings that match the search criteria, accompanied by their document numbers.
The figure below shows an example of search results in PatMedia. The search was conducted on an uploaded PNG drawing image from US4965492 downloaded from Google Patents, related to incandescent light bulbs, and a textual keyword, "bulb," was used in the "figure text search" field to limit the search. Note that the results can be filtered further using a menu that appears on the lower left side of the screen. This menu allows filtering by image type, e.g. diagram, flowchart, graph, circuit, etc.
Selecting a patent number of interest will load all of the drawings from that document into the results page as thumbnails. An option to download the entire patent document for further study is also available.
The service is available here.
A presentation about PatMedia was given by Gerald Ypma at the 2010 Information Retrieval Facility conference in Vienna. The presentation can be downloaded from this page (last accessed June 21, 2010).