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 www.localpatents.com 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.