While patent databases, such as those provided by the USPTO or www.freepatents.com, provide comprehensive information about the contents of a patent—the abstract, prior art references, specification, claims, drawings, etc.—they are limited in their scope and utility. The Center believes patent information would be of greater utility and far more robust if patents could be “tagged” with other relevant information. Consider some possible tags:
- Prior art not included in the patent but cited against the patent in litigation or re-examination
- Products that embody one or more claims of the patent
- Other patents that are in the same immediate field Issue standards that infringe the patent
- Open source” type licenses that provide broad rights to infringe the patent.
Having such “tagged” information would clearly increase the utility of the database.
At the same time, we believe visualization technology could be usefully applied to such an expanded database to permit researchers to see relationships that exist among groups of patents. Such visual relationships might identify patent “thickets.” They may identify all of the patents embodied in a software product (where patent marking is not required). They may improve the ability of patent examiners to identify relevant prior art.
Funded under a grant provided by the National Science Foundation and conducting research in conjunction with the Computer Science Department of the University of Minnesota, the Center will create and test a model that permits the public to add tags to an open patent database. In addition, we will model and test visualization technology in conjunction with this expanded open patent database. If successful, we believe such technology will demonstrate that a “tagged” open patent database is of far greater utility to patent offices and the public in understanding and evaluating patents.