AmiCOUR IP Group News and Opinions

Google That Patent:
USPTO and Google Team Up to Make IP Data Accessable

August 2010

Here is a copy of our Viewpoints article as submitted and reprinted with our permission in LES Viewpoints.

By Scott Bechtel and Tony Escobar 

The USPTO and Google recently announced that Google will host and provide virtually unlimited access to the USPTO’s vast array of IP data for inventors, their attorneys, IP managers and service providers, and everyone else who enjoys plowing through reams of data searching for the latest great innovation, the newest trademark, or something else even more interesting.

Google has already made the USPTO’s massive patent and trademark database files available to the public for download at no charge.  The patent file set includes thousands of zipped files containing “grants, applications, assignments, classification information, and maintenance fee events”, and the trademark database includes “grants, applications, and TTAB proceedings”.  Google’s patent file download page links to these offerings:  “Grant images -- Grant full text -- Grant bibliographic data -- Published applications – Assignments – Maintenance fee events – USPTO Red Book – Classification information”.  Their trademark download page links to these offerings:  “Grants & applications, 1870-2008 – Recent applications – Recent assignments – Trademark Trial and Appeal Board decisions.”  

The new policy may prove a watershed event by facilitating advancement of future tools to efficiently research or even mine patents, applications, file histories, maintenance fee records, and assignments looking for commercial IP opportunities.  Software experimentation with new systems capable of “reading” patent information and mining public records for relevant matches is now possible.  Smaller service providers and consultants are also likely to take advantage of the free bulk data, removing a barrier previously blocking competition with larger, more established IP service providers.

For now, Google’s raw data files are not for the faint hearted, impatient, or IT-challenged.  The hosted data comes exactly as advertised.  Other than Google’s repackaging into zip files, the decompressed file formats must be read out (most are XML) and processed into a usable, human friendly form.  Most of the individual files are very large, typically containing hundreds of megabytes each, and the download time calculations for a fast cable modem (download of the entire lot) still promise to choke out most home Internet hookups.  Different USPTO information resides in different files without automatic relational links to improve searches.  For the IT challenged, the existing Google patents website and USPTO PAIR system may be just what the more practical patent practitioner ordered.  For the IT savvy experimenters in search of IP’s Holy Grail, the new data may be the first real opportunity to go for it. After all, it’s free to try. 

The newly leveled playing field is only a beginning.  There is little doubt that nimble technologists will traverse the challenging landscape of large volumes of complex data, and a handful will develop new IP products that help the rest of us.  Examples might include:

  • Automated searching for relevant patents to serve a specific strategic purpose.
  • Better linkage between IP portfolios and other public information, such as stock market data, court records, and the world of product information such as product bar codes, service manuals, FTC and FDA database information, and more.
  • Deployment of independent computerized scoring methods.  Sometime soon, every patent may have a score, or perhaps many different scores.
  • More advanced IP blogs where people can cyber gather an discuss specific patents and their close cousins.
  • A system mapping patents to the LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter profiles of the named inventors.
  • Linkages between patents or trademarks and popular references like the CRC Handbook, SAE and Bellcore specifications, Physician’s Desk Reference, Wikipedia, and more.
  • Systems to mine and map assignees, including successors and assigns.
  • Better clustering tools, with enhanced pick features.
  • Support for other, perhaps more innovative IP web research sites offering new and different ways to find and understand patents, for example by searching with a product description, datasheet, another URL, a desired quality score or other filtering system, or even just by entering a product model number or simply its bar code.

A “deal of distinction” isn’t guaranteed for Google for giving IP junkies raw material to keep burning the midnight oil, but we think it’s a sure bet that this will result in some new patent filings. We have no idea if any of the ideas above are already patented, but now you know where to look. 

© 2010 AmiCOUR IP Group, LLC.