Patent landscaping: patent search and analysis tools
The already vast quantity of patent-related data increases with every new patent application filed. These data are a rich source of technological information, and many search tools, both free and subscription-based, exist to aid navigation and exploration. Nevertheless, the sheer volume of patents and applications worldwide can make meaningful searching difficult for the inexperienced. Help may be at hand, however, following the recent launch of two new search platforms. These are directed at specific areas, making it easier to target your data mining.
In July, the International Standards and Patents in Renewable Energy (INSPIRE) platform was unveiled. This is a collaboration between the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA, based in Masdar City, the planned city project in Abu Dhabi built to rely on renewable energy and host environmentally friendly and clean-tech companies), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and importantly from an intellectual property perspective, the European Patent Office (EPO).
INSPIRE brings together patent documents and international standards relating to renewable energy and carbon reduction technologies. It therefore acknowledges the important link between patents and standards which is often recognised in the telecommunications industry with its frequent talk of standard-essential patents (SEPs), but can be less widely appreciated elsewhere. The patents section provides basic information about patents, gives access to information on more than two million patent documents in the green technologies field drawn from the global patent statistics database PATSTAT, and allows searching via the online patents search tool Espacenet. Emphasis is given to Espacenet's dedicated 'Y02' classification scheme for carbon mitigation technologies. The standards section allows searching of over 400 international standards, and provides general information about standards.
Besides dedicated patent searching in a specific field, it is intended that INSPIRE will enable the analysis of aspects of renewable energy policy and innovation. For example, identifying a trend in patent activity may indicate the effectiveness of particular policies, which in turn can inform future policy making. The grouping of patents and standards data from the renewable energy field and the comparisons and analysis thereby made possible aim to enhance collaboration and improve innovation in this important area.
The second platform targets a geographical rather than a technological area. September saw the launch by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) of PatentsView. This is described as a "patent data visualization platform", and does indeed return search results in an easy to interpret and interactive format combining text and graphics.
PatentsView is a patent search tool for exploring several decades of data relating to patents and patenting activity in the US, the data corresponding to over five million patents from 1976 to 2014 and being drawn from the USPTO's public bulk data files (which is not the official USPTO record). It is possible to search via a range of filters, including inventor, assignee (applicant or patentee), technology, location (US and worldwide), dates, subject matter classification and patent number.
Results can be returned as a list, an interactive table, or on a map, and provide links through to other data. For example, for an individual patent, found perhaps via an inventor or the assignee, the number of times it has been cited by the USPTO against subsequent patents is revealed, together with the geographic origins of those later patents, and networks of co-inventors. All bibliographic information for patents is provided, with a link to the abstract. Very particular information can be readily gleaned, such as all the companies in a given city that were granted patents in a specific technology sector in a given year.
PatentsView is considered to be a key component of the US President's 'Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government', since it is addressed to the aim of encouraging the understanding of intellectual property and innovation, is freely available to all, and is considered as a 'public good' platform intended to "increase the value, utility and transparency of US patent data". It has been developed since 2012 by the USPTO in collaboration with a number of other bodies including the US Department of Agriculture and the University of California at Berkeley. The initial version is a beta platform, and public feedback is encouraged to inform future development and expansion.
So, should you be in need of data relating to patents on renewable energy or patents filed in the US, or perhaps both, these new tools might be just what you need.