Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Google Patents Delivers 2007 Patents

Patent searchers have been wondering for months when Google would update Google Patents, its database of U.S. patents launched in mid-2006. Although the USPTO publishes up to 10,000 new patent documents per week, Google Patents hasn't been updated since it was launched some sixteen months ago.... that is, until now.

I was running some test searches this evening and noticed some very recent patents turning up in the search results. Sure enough, it appears that GP now includes some issued patents through at least August 2007, although it's unclear if the data is complete. The Google Patents FAQ still insists that coverage is from 1790 to June 2006.

I also noticed that GP is no longer claiming to provide access to current U.S. Patent Classification data. The advanced search form classification field and patent record display are now labelled "U.S. Classification" rather than "Current U.S. Classification". The classification data appears to be the classification at issue.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Chemical Structure Searching in Free Patent Databases?

The ability to search chemical compounds in public patent databases has always been very limited. Unlike commercial databases such as SciFinder Scholar, public patent databases have not offered tools for searching compounds by structure or formula. Nor do they include dictionaries of chemical synonyms. Searchers are pretty much limited to running keyword searches for chemical names, a time-consuming and highly inaccurate approach. This might change in the near future.

This week in Barcelona, Spain, Dr. Nigel Clarke of the European Patent Office is giving a presentation at the ICIC International Conference in Trends for Scientific Information Professionals on the possibility of adding a chemical structure search option to esp@cenet, the EPO's free patent database. The EPO recently surveyed esp@cenet users and found that there was much interest from the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.

This is interesting because it would the first time a national patent office has offered this type of very specialized search function. In general, patent offices design their online databases for the general public.

Most Prolific Inventors

Contrary to popular opinion, Thomas Edison is not the world's most prolific inventor. So says technology writer Kevin Maney in the November issue of Condé Nast Portfolio. Although Edison received an impressive 1,093 U.S. patents during his lifetime, Maney has uncovered at least three living inventors, including one American, who beat Edison's record. They are:

Shunpei Yamazaki (Japan) - 1,811 U.S. patents
Kia Silverbrook (Australia) - 1,646
Donald Weder (U.S.) - 1,350

Maney also identifies the most prolific women inventors and a few up-and-coming inventors with more than 500 patents. Curiously, he doesn't mention Jerome Lemelson, the king of submarine patents, who has at least 570 U.S. patents and another 19 pending applications. Lemleson continues to score patents although he died in 1997.