Can You Automate Patent Processing?

from the that-seems-fraught-with-problems dept

One of the big complaints with the current patent system is the amount of time it takes for an application to actually go through the process of approval. Supporters of the patent system often insist that the "solution" is to fund the Patent Office with more money so it can hire a lot more examiners. Of course, this suggests that the problem is a linear one, and it can be fixed by just throwing money and bodies at the problem -- when there's little evidence that's the case. Some of us have always believed that the real way to fix the problem is to bring the patent system much closer to its original purpose, where patents were the exception, only to be used in exceptional cases where other incentives wouldn't do the job. However, over in Europe they seem to think there's a third way: better automating the patent process. A European consortium has been working on something called "PATExpert," which they describe as using "semantic web" technologies. Unfortunately, details aren't particularly forthcoming, and for all the talk of the "semantic web" over the years, it's been little more than buzzwords and hype from what we've seen. Throw in the word paradigm, and you have to wonder if what's been built does anything even remotely useful:
"The greatest success of PATExpert has been to initiate the change of the paradigm currently followed in patent processing services from textual to semantic."
It would be great if someone could explain that in plain English, because it sounds like gibberish trying to sound intelligent. But, back on point, it's hard to see how any "automated" system would actually help in the process of approving patents. Considering how many mistakes are made and bad patents allowed through, I'd worry that automating the process is only likely to create significantly more problems.


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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2009 @ 10:19pm

    what would be fun (but would never happen) is an automated deny, with no possibility to accept the application. would also be easy to code.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2009 @ 10:26pm

    Its EU-funded, That means its broken by default.

    I am from germany and I can say, that almost nothing good came EVER from any EU-funde project, things are just bound to get worse by this.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2009 @ 10:27pm

    It makes perfect sense to me. Having read only your blurb and writeup, the blurb certainly means that one would be required to submit the patent in the form of structured semantical data which can be algorithmically analyzed to decide whether it meets certain acceptable standards of novelty.

    All this is impossible, but its fun to watch them possibly progress the state of the art a little but by trying.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2009 @ 10:48pm

    It would be great if someone could explain that in plain English, because it sounds like gibberish trying to sound intelligent.

    If one understands the current methodology uitilized in the never-ending quest for organizations like the USPTO to identify relevant prior art, the above quote would make perfect sense. However, to do this one has to sully their hands and make the time-consuming effort to educate themselves on how prior art search sytems actually work.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2009 @ 11:07pm

    i know!!!

    start with document feeder were one puts the Patent application followed by a red stamp REJECTED.

     

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  6.  
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    Dubious, Apr 15th, 2009 @ 11:38pm

    Let the games begin. er... change.

    There will be ways to game any automated system to get applications through that shouldn't. Part of the process will probably involve coming up with new ways to describe old ideas.

    Of course, the existing system is gamed, too. So we would be changing games.

    The only good that I can see coming from this system is that submitters would probably have to submit all information in a rigid format that is machine readable. That might make it easier for the public to look at the filings and possibly figure out what is being proposed.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 12:14am

    Question: Can You Automate Patent Processing?

    Answer: No.

    All it will do is incent those who know how to circumvent the automated process with bogus patents.

    Overall, I think this actually provides a glimpse to a much larger problem-- trying to acquire talent into role of "Patent Examiners" who actually have little practical experience.

    Patent Examination is largely a practical-experience job. Perhaps a better solution is to pay more based on experience, increase job coaching opportunities for invalid patents, and also create a more streamlined process for challenges to patent validity.

    Additionally, I would like to see those who don't make a concentrated effort to license their Government-Granted Monopoly (outside of legal recourse) loose their Government-Granted Monopoly.

    Scorched Earth Policies of litigation means no one wins.

     

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  8.  
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    Mike (profile), Apr 16th, 2009 @ 1:25am

    Re:

    If one understands the current methodology uitilized in the never-ending quest for organizations like the USPTO to identify relevant prior art, the above quote would make perfect sense

    Uh, really?

    Let's go through the quote again, just for fun:

    "The greatest success of PATExpert has been to initiate the change of the paradigm currently followed in patent processing services from textual to semantic."

    Initiate the changed of the paradigm...? I'm sorry, that has nothing to do with not knowing the current process. That's gibberish.

     

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  9.  
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    Ima Fish, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 5:41am

    What does any business do when it's confronted with too many customers? Raise prices. That's what the Patent Office should do. Raise prices until they have a more manageable number of patents to consider.

     

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  10.  
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    Sneeje, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 5:58am

    Re: Re:

    Well of course you're right. This is the worst of consultant-speak. I'm surprised they didn't call it something like "e-patents" or use other words like enable or leverage.

    What I'd be more interested in is what semantic taxonomy they will use. Unless there is a generally agreed-upon (by parties using the system) set of definitions for the semantic tags that will be used, I don't see how this could possibly succeed.

    Just consider how the above quote would be parsed by such a system... application: a patent to "initiate the change of the paradigm"? ... GRANTED.

     

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  11.  
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    Lonnie E. Holder, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 6:01am

    Re:

    Others in the IP community have proposed the same thing IMA. Some people believe that if patents were significantly more expensive to obtain that companies would only pursue those patents that were truly valuable, reducing the number that are merely minor, incremental improvements.

    For all the people who have [seriously] proposed that novelty should meet a certain standard (i.e., a little novelty is not enough to be patented, it takes a lot of novelty; how do you define little versus a lot? - no one knows, I guess you just know it when you see it), raising prices creates a self-policing system.

    The people most opposed to raising prices are small businesses, and individual inventors, because then who will protect the children? Sorry, just kidding again. The theory is that smaller companies and individuals will be disadvantaged by the significantly higher prices, that companies like IBM, Toyota and Exxon can afford to pay.

    Of course, the easy way to handle business size is tier fees, just like they are now. Smallest businesses pay a relatively modest fee. Medium sized business pay a larger fee, and mega-business pay mega fees.

    Then, increase maintenance fees. Keep the 3.5 year fee low. Then, instead of the current 7.5 year fee, double it or triple it. Then triple the $4,000 11.5 year fee. The number of patents in force, currently somewhere around 1.2 million (about 7.4 million patents have been issued; most patents before number 5,000,000 have expired; about one third of all patents are abandoned at the 3.5 year fee, and another one third are abandoned at the 7.5 year fee; in round numbers, about half of the 2.4 million patents that could be in force are probably still in force, leaving about 1.2 million patents in force), would probably fall by another 50% or more in a relatively short period of time.

    Good way to clean the gunk out of the arteries Ima. Best suggestion I have ever seen from you.

     

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  12.  
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    Christopher Smith, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 8:01am

    I'll give it a try...

    My understanding of the quote:

    "Currently, patent examiners [who often don't really understand what's being patented] use a keyword-based search (similar to Google) to find prior art and other related patents. PATExpert is a system to let them search by 'tags' about the patent instead of just searching plain text."

    And Sneeje: Be fair... Some of us consultants can speak plain English, and that babble seems to flow from anyone who regularly wears a tie to work, employees included!

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 8:10am

    Re: Re:

    "Change of the paradigm" translated:

    "It is currently being done this way. We believe ours is a different and better way."

    Hardly "gibberish" if you understand how things are currently being done. Now, whether or not this truly is a different and better way is another matter.

    Oops...I forgot. One does not need to understand how a system works to form an opinion. My bad.

     

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  14.  
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    Sneeje, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 8:34am

    Re: Re: Re:

    You might want to separate healthy skepticism based on the extreme use of marketing jargon), which is the opinion, from a declaration of judgment on the system itself.

    Oops...I forgot, one does not need to read and understand a post to form a judgment about its validity. My bad.

     

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  15.  
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    Sneeje, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 8:38am

    Re: I'll give it a try...

    Granted. :)

    And believe me, I've used those words often myself, but they are an indicator of the necessity to dig deeper. The history of vaporware, for example, would probably be a great place to observe the frequent use of this language.

     

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  16.  
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    nasch, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 9:36am

    Re: I'll give it a try...

    I was thinking something along the lines of this:

    "Our contract doesn't specify any measurements of how well the system actually works in order for us to get paid. We will deliver a ridiculous failure and snicker all the way to the bank."

     

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  17.  
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    Merijn, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 1:38pm

    have you ever read a patent text?

    I did, partly because I work in a research group that strives to automate part of the IR technology in the patent world. Patents almost look generated, using very typical language.
    The first time I read part of a patent, I couldn't understand what the actual invention was, what its intended use was, etc.

     

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  18.  
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    moelarry, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 2:59pm

    payolla

    "Some of us have always believed that the real way to fix the problem is to bring the patent system much closer to its original purpose, where patents were the exception, only to be used in exceptional cases where other incentives wouldn't do the job. "

    masnick you're a ninny. the only incentive is to pay those who create. without patents and copyrights creators do not get paid. how is it you can struggle so with something so fundamental. ughhh!!!

    never mind...payolla

     

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