USPTO Early in 2008 the USPTO installed verification software in its Public PAIR (Patent Application Information Retrieval) system that requires users to enter a two-word code in order to access patent and published application files. This was done in response to repeated bulk downloading by web spiders and automated scripts that severely degraded PAIR's performance.
WIPO PATENTSCOPE In September, WIPO announced that the complete file contents of published international applications would be made available through the PATENTSCOPE search system. As of December 30, 2008 only the PCT request form is available. Other types of documents to be added include correspondence, copies of forms and original documents filed by applicants.
In December, WIPO announced that it would suppress inventor and individual applicant address information in PATENSCOPE due to privacy concerns. This will apparently not affect PATENSCOPE searches or RSS search alerts based on inventor address criteria. And address data will still appear on the frontpage of PCT published applications in PDF format.
On January 1, 2009 WIPO implemented three new kind codes (A4, A8 and A9) for republished PCT applications.
EPO esp@cenet In October, EPO introduced a number of enhancements to the esp@cenet international patent database. These include increasing the number of documents stored in "My List" from 20 to 100; the ability to export data from search results (up to 30 records at a time); date range searching; highlighting search terms; and a single Google-like search box.
IP Australia In April IP Australia launched a new patent search system called AusPat. Contents include bibliograhic data from 1970 forward and full-text data from about 1998 forward. IP Australia's old system, PatentSearch, will be retired in February 2009.
FreePatentsOnline In September FPO increased the storage of individual accounts to a maximum of 20 portfolios and 10,000 documents. FPO also added a chemical search function. SumoBrain, another fee-based patent search system from the creators of FPO, introduced free individual user accounts.
Patents.com Launched in September, Patents.com offers access to full text US utility, reissue and design patents, published applications (including plant patent applications) from 1976 to the present and European patent documents from 1998? forward. Search modes include simple, advanced and expert; about thirty searchable fields. A bulk search option allows users to retrieve multiple patents by number. Patents.com is the reincarnation of PatentMonkey.com, a patent search site that operated from early 2006 to January 2008.
Google Patents Google Patents added US published applications but data is about six months behind.
I'm the librarian for research services in the Engineering and Science Library at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. I've been working with patent information since 1991, including seven years at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. I believe that the dissemination of patent information is a public good and should be promoted, especially in the education of science and engineering students.