USPTO Patent Data Now On Google

Till recently you could “Google” patents and perhaps find some of what you were looking for but just as you would for just about any other information. Now with the announcement of Google and the USPTO having entered into an agreement to make the following USPTO products available on Google there is a vast amount of patent data which has just become more accessible. With the ability to simply go to Google and bulk download large sets of patent texts, assignments, images and other information the data has been thrown open for those who can leverage it.

Although bulk patent data sourced from subscription based databases will continue to offer valuable features, the availability of USPTO data on Google is a reaffirmation that we’re quickly moving towards an age where massive amounts of valuable data is readily available for analysis. The focus and challenges are gradually moving towards the efficient management of such quantities of data and extracting exactly intelligence from it.

The development will perhaps pave way for content-driven in-house search and analysis systems that provide a destination for bulk patent data and go further in extracting insights in different ways from it. Due to the nature, format and size of the data, its unlikely to be usable directly by end users and so IP search systems that can support the formats and organize the information may appear soon. As access to patent data through open information channels increases the need to handle the IP information being researched and be able to analyze and report it quickly and efficiently becomes a priority.

With the right tools and software to manage it efficiently, this data could be an invaluable information and research asset.

An Insight Into WIPO 2009 International Patent Filings

The WIPO Patent Filings Report was published last month and at first glance 2009 seems like a year when innovation was held back by the economic turmoil especially across developed countries. Overall the report shows a 4.5% decline in filings from the 2008 figures but despite the decline, it also reveals some interesting insights into the changing face of innovation globally. Here are just some of the insights the 2009 international patent filings reveal:

Industrialized Nations Vs Developing Nations

Are the innovation efforts of more industrialized nations more susceptible to significant declines as a result of the economic conditions as compared to the developing counties? The filings seem to suggest so. While USA, Germany, Sweden and Canada showed declines of 11.4%, 11.2%, 11.3% and 11.7% respectively, China had an increase of 29.7% in patent filings.

Top 5 Counties for Patent Filings & How They Fared In 2008 vs 2009

 Electronics Dominate The Applications

The electronics industry dominated the patent filings charts with most of the top 10 and a significant portion of the top 100 featuring electronics manufacturers. Japans Panasonic Corp, China’s Huawei  Technologies and Germany’s Robert Bosch GMBH taking the top three spots.

 

Developing Countries To Look Out For

Korea, China, India, Brazil and South Africa lead patent filings from developing countries with Turkey, Malaysia, Mexico and Barbados close behind. Korea and China which were earlier looked upon more as manufacturing centers of the world are rapidly evolving to becoming innovative economies as figures show.

 

In terms of share in filings amongst developing countries, Korea and China lead with a sizable lead over the rest and competitively gaining ground over several developed nations too.

While 2009 with it’s economic significance may not be indicative of the upcoming years, the WIPO patent filings show there are some significant global implications to how the world’s innovation centers are evolving.

The Battle On Software Patents Continues – How Would You Resolve It?

It’s everywhere! Blogs are buzzing with opinions and views on it, Twitter is flowing with tweets and references to it and IP professionals, innovators and the software industry are glued to  In re Bernard L. Bilski and Rand A. Warsaw v. Kappos  where the battle for patent rights for software and in particular business methods has turned into a war of sorts.

Some of the large stalwarts in software such as IBM, Yahoo, Accenture among many have shown strong support for extensive patent rights for software.  Several other smaller software firms, developers and organizations like the Free Software Foundation see software patenting as detrimental to progress and future of the software technology industry. Gene Quinn of IPWatchDog.com in his post went a somewhat fresh route and not just backed the need for software patents but also insisted that star-ups and smaller companies have a lot to gain from filing patents for their software technology in his recent post  “Why All Small Businesses Need Software Patents”. The battle on whether software patents should be allowed or not is a tough one with arguments both for and against this idea.

Those against it argue software code is logic and mathematical and the current patent system is just not equipped to handle such an issue. It’s almost like Twitter can make a claim they invented the “What are you doing now?” component of the application which allows people to update what they are doing through their software and claim “this is code” they used and it should be protected from others using their idea. Someone like Facebook however could claim that they already had this feature as part of their application where people could update what they were doing and share it with friends long before Twitter and their code though different was the original claim to this innovation. The arguments can go on endlessly and further innovation and development of software can be hampered if every single software component some developer programmed were to be patented and off-limits to other software not to mention how much more expensive software could become if every such component had to be licensed to create a working application.

On the other hand there is very little advantage for a true innovator or first mover in the software field and very little protection from the large players. For example if a smart developer invents an algorithm which can help identify and recognize objects and details in graphic images like photos and wants to monetize this through building a full application and creating a start-up, it could be just a matter of time before some large player like Flickr or Microsoft discover this and have their R&D departments replicate the technology perhaps with different code. In this system, those with the marketing might or large pockets to buy smaller players benefit without the real innovators being rewarded proportionately. That alone makes a fairly strong case for software patenting.

Whichever side you take, there are compelling arguments and there is no doubt that if a race for patenting software inventions starts, it will have a long term impact on the industry. It could change the way we develop software or at least the approach development. It would mean rather than simply checking for copyrights and licenses for certain applications or components, businesses will now have to study and analyze all patent sets around their project to look out for liabilities and possible infringement cases before getting behind the screen to start coding. It’s still important to consider the software industry can’t easily be compared to the pharmaceutical industry or the automobile industry where patenting and IP protection have been an inherent part of their world. Yet, this new industry has developed at lightning speed and the stakes are high for everyone involved. Though this battle is not over, the way it finally turns out will depend heavily on public view and everyone’s opinion.

So what is your take on it? Should extensive software patenting rights be granted? How would you see this battle resolved?

Tech companies find a way to fight “Patent Trolls”

Over the past few decades, the patent system has grown progressively. Today almost anything under the Sun that is made by man is considered patentable. Fuelling this is the increasing number of inventions made everyday. Organizations are seeking patents even for the minor modification they make in their original invention. Though this looks like a good trend, but like every coin has two sides, the patent system is also not untouched by the flip side.

It started with patent infringement law suits, wherein the defaulting party has to pay up huge amount of money as compensation. This created an opportunity for some. The opportunity of earning through the patent law suits. They are called the “Patent Trolls” who exist only to extort large payments out of cash rich companies. This trend is seen more in the technology space. The patent trolls seek to buy intellectual property to extract royalties from companies that rely on a particular technology.

Technology companies are known to pay up amounts to the tune of Millions of Dollars to settle the patent infringement law suits. This is becoming quite an annoying trend. Measures have been taken to curb this practice but haven’t seen satisfying results yet.

Technology heavy-weights like Google, Verizon Communications, Cisco Systems, Telefon AB L.M. Ericsson, and Hewlett-Packard among other have formed a group to tackle this. They are called the Allied Security Trust. This group plans to buy up key intellectual property before it is obtained by parties who might use it against them. To join the group, each company will pay about $250,000 and about $5 million into an agreement for future patent purchases. Considering the heavy amounts these companies end up paying in settlements, the amount for joining the group looks very minimal.

The number of patent-related law suits has seen an alarming rise in the recent past – nearly 2500 through October’07 from 921 in 1990. With the Allied Security Trust, the technology companies are hoping to stay clear of such law suits which cost them heavily.

Patent Filing Rises in India

Texas instruments, one of the largest chip makers in the world has seen a dramatic shift in the patent filing from their Indian R&D Offices. Since 1985, the Bangalore office in India, has filed over 500 patents. Another chip maker – NXP Semiconductors, also seems to have a similar story.

Patent Application filed by Indian Firms has grown annually by about 20% to about 35,000 applications in 2007-2008. (Source)

Writing a patent application is not a day’s work. In fact it’s almost as detailed and as complex as a legal contract. While the country is filing patents by the dozen, this could be one of the biggest opportunities for IP and legal processing centers to look inwards and drive revenues from servicing US Based technology giants with Indian offshore R&D Centers like Texas Instruments.

As patent filing continues to soar, so will legal implications and infringements. Courts will begin to get burdened by open cases and hard ruling judgments. The next decade should see exponential growth in business opportunities for services in the legal and IP verticals.