Thursday, January 28, 2010

New: Intellogist Blog

The Intellogist, a wiki for patent searchers, has launched a blog. It's a nice addition to a site that already has some great resources, including patent search system profiles and comparisons, coverage information and best practices for patent searching. I look forward to following it...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

PCT Coverage in Public Patent Databases

How the data in a database or search engine is structured is as important (or more so) as the data itself.

I was reminded of this old rule-of-thumb a couple of weeks ago when I decided to compare coverage of PCT applications in public patent databases, namely PatentScope, FreePatentsOnline, esp@cenet, and Patent Lens. The results were fairly consistent until I got to Patent Lens, where my benchmark searches retrieved far more documents than the other three databases. (See table below.)

Most surprising was that my date of publication searches retrieved many more documents for five of the six dates I had selected. If PatentScope, which is the official record of the WIPO, says that 3,280 PCT applications were published on March 19, 2009, why did Patent Lens tell me it found 4,364? Obviously, this has serious implications for anyone using Patent Lens to do competitive intelligence, market research or simply track the number of PCTs filed by their organization.

Fortunately, the friendly folks at Patent Lens provided the explanation: Patent Lens indexes all versions of published PCTs, which inflates the number of retrieved documents. This includes subsequently published international search reports (A3 or A9), amended (A4) and corrected versions (A9). PatentScope and espacenet link these documents to the record for the initial publication (A1 or A2). FreePatentsOnline's PCT coverage apparently includes only the first published application (A1 or A2), although I haven't yet confirmed it. This explains the consistency in search results in FPO, PatentScope and esp@cenet.

So what are the practical implications for non-IP professionals who use Patent Lens? Well, if a researcher or tenure-track professor searches his or her name or university, they may get an inflated document count.

Monday, January 25, 2010

USPTO Reorganizes Classes 210 and 707

The USPTO has published two more classification orders affecting Class 210, Liquid Purification and Separation, and Class 707, Data Processing: Database and File Management or Data Structures. (#1890 and #1893)

Approximately 83,767 patents and 14,473 published applications are classified in Class 210. The earliest patent is no. X5,013, which was registered on Feb. 22, 1828 to a Christopher Hall of Norfolk, Virginia for a method of purifying and filtering water. Of the 84,000 patents in Class 210, 56.5 percent were issued after 1975.

Approximately 35,547 patents and 53,792 published applications are classified in Class 707. The overwhelming majority of patents in this class, 99.2 percent, were issued after 1975. The earliest patent in Class 707 was issued in 1959 to French inventors Claude Rene Jean Dumousseau and Andre Edouard Joseph Chatelon and assigned to the International Standard Electric Co. of New York, a subsidiary of international telecom giant International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT). The French engineers' patent, US 2,881,415, describes a system for recording and selecting information, e.g. a telephone call answering system.

Espacenet Enhancements

This morning I discovered several nice enhancements in esp@cenet:

1. Expanded search terms
For years the maximum number of search terms you could input in any esp@cenet field was four. This limitation appears to have been lifted. I was able to successfully run searches using five or more terms.

2. Highlighted search terms
Search terms are now highlighted in retrieved titles and abstracts.

3. Sorting search results
Search results can be sorted by priority date, inventor, applicant, ECLA code and upload date.

The latest issue of the EPO's Patent Information News hints at more improvements to come later this year.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Boliven Withdraws from the Field

According to an e-mail notice sent to members last week, Boliven, a social networking service aimed at inventors, researchers and IP professionals will cease operations today. It was still online as of 5:00pm EST today. (Jan. 22)

The service was launched just a year ago. In addition to networking services, it offered access to millions of public documents, including patent documents from the U.S., Europe, Japan, Korea and the WIPO. The patent database had a nice interface and excellent tools for analyzing search results, but the search engine had significant problems understanding patent classification codes, which greatly limited its usefulness.

Boliven wasn't the first free patent database to offer analytical tools. WIPO's PatentScope database introduced them in 2006. Last year FreePatentsOnline launched a cool map mash-up called that maps U.S. patents by geographic location.

Although I really enjoyed using the analytical tools, Boliven's business model never made sense to me. After all, there are already plenty of free and commercial patent databases and networking sites. In May, after allowing users to test the site for free for a few months, it announced that it would start charging for access to its databases. A few weeks later it did an about-face and announced that members would continue to have free access.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Wikipedia Citations in Patents Up 59 Percent

The number of U.S. patents issued last year that contain one or more references to Wikipedia articles totalled 809, a 59 percent jump from 2008. Several years ago the USPTO banned patent examiners from using Wikipedia as a source of information for determining patentability of inventions. However, examiners and applicants continue to cite it. Wikipedia articles represent only a fraction of interet resources cited in patents. More than 17,000 U.S. patents issued last year have one or more cited references containing a URL.