The earliest of Google’s fourteen US patents, #6,678,681, was filed on 9 March 2000 by Sergey Brin for “Information extraction from a database”.
Brin appears as the inventor on three Google patents. His co-founder Larry Page is the inventor on patents 6,285,999 (“Method for node ranking in a linked database”, filed 9 Jan 1998) and 6,799,176 (“Method for scoring documents in a linked database”, filed 6 July 2001), but these patents have been assigned to Stanford.
I wonder how much Google is paying Stanford in licensing fees? It can't be much... Stanford's 2005/2006 Consolidated Budget shows $263 million in Other Income; I assume patent licensing fees are in there. The 2004 Annual Report notes that special program fees and other income were $259 million in FY04; this includes technology licensing as well as service centers, executive education and other programs.
It’s curious that Page’s Stanford patent 6,799,176 was filed about eight months after the first Google patent 6,678,681 by Brin.
Most of the patents are for search and query technologies, as one might expect. However, three are for hardware designs: Cooling baffle and fan mount apparatus , Cable management for rack mounted computing system , and Drive cooling baffle. Just in case anyone was in doubt, here's evidence that running a large data center is a key competency for Google.