Monday, May 31, 2010

Coronado Group's Life Sciences Index

On May 14th, Coronado Group released its Life Sciences index, a state of the art conceptual and semantic search tool focused exclusively on the inventions and concepts in the life sciences domain. Search the entire patent database in less than a minute. Find the patents that contain concepts, not just words, that are closest to your life sciences question.

The concept space for the index is based on the concepts in over 800,000 patents covering the entire spectrum of life sciences concepts, inventions, technology, and innovation. The index lets you search across the entire full text database of patents issued since 1971 regardless of how the patent and its claims are classified. This provides searchers with deep dive access to life sciences scientific and technical information in all of the granted US patents rather than those searchable using traditional search techniques.

Entering gigabytes of text into the concept search box enabling searchers to use the content of entire patents or groups of patents to find and rank other patents based on how close the information in the search box is to the concepts in the patents in Coronado's index.

Because you can enter words up to 256 characters, researchers can copy and paste genome sequences into the search box to look for the presence of those strings with the text of granted patents.

Medical researchers can address scientific convergence by combining information from different domains to explore the boundaries of scientific confluence. The same techniques deliver search capabilities that address multi-modality clinical investigations and treatment approaches.

Coronado's deep dive search techniques lets searchers explore how techniques drawn from their work and knowledge appear in other domains. This let's you search outside your scientific comfort zone without having to translate complex scientific discoveries or investigative hunches into the keywords, Boolean strings, or the language of other specialties and subspecialties to execute a successful search.

The Life Sciences Index lets you Search the Way You Think. Please let us know if you'd like to take it for a test drive. It is amazing.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Business Methods Monday - The Patents Behind the News

A recent article in the business journal section of our local newspaper (remember those?) discussed how businesses are using social media to stay in touch with and advertise to their customers. Many businesses are now using outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, Myspace and various blogging options, in addition to more traditional marketing means such as web pages for the business, banner ads, newspaper ads, fliers, etc.

Like most articles of this kind, information on the patents underlying these innovative practices is lacking. I decided to use Cog IP to do a little investigation of patents in class 705 that might support this interaction between a business and its customers.

I started by using Cog IP to perform a concept search on the entire text of the article. The search returned many business methods patents classified in class 705. I reviewed these patents and selected 16 that represented electronic marketing, covering a range of topics including targeted advertising, wireless advertising, intelligent agents, and shopping assistance using handheld devices. Extracting the abstract, claims, and summary of the invention of each of these and inserting it back into the concept search along with the original article, a new, more highly refined search result set was obtained. Sixty-five (65) patents in the business methods class were obtained.

Let's take a look at a few of these.

Patent 7013290 "Personalized interactive digital catalog profiling" "provides a universal interactive and enhanced digital catalog server system for products, services and information." The system allows users "to anonymously and instantly catalog any item they view in a store or trade show, off a Web site or television program, or from a periodical or brochure . . . meaning they can personally acquire and manage relevant catalog information for later use and sharing." Information can be cataloged using smart phones, portable PCs, personal digital assistants (PDA), Internet-enabled set-top devices (ITV), card readers and scanners, standard landline telephones, portable scanners, and Internet-enabled game consoles. Users access these catalogs through a web-based interface for managing, profiling, sharing with peers, or for use in a web service. The system maintains the anonymity of users.

A business may want to provide expert information on its products or services to customers. Enter patent 6223165 "Method and apparatus to connect consumer to expert." This patent provides "a method of (or apparatus for) facilitating the delivery of advice to consumers using a server unit which can store and display the names and characteristics of experts and then rapidly assist in connecting the expert and consumer for real-time communication. The server can also have the ability to receive keywords from the consumer, match those keywords to one or more experts, and tell the consumer how to contact an expert." The system also provides for identification of compensation rates for each expert (claim 1), the expert's certification (claim 5), and a quality score provided by previous consumers (claim 7). The inventor was also awarded other patents related to this one (6523010, 6549889, 6546372, 6801899).

An early method of providing "Intelligent agents for electronic commerce" was patented in 6119101 which relates to gathering and analyzing market transaction data and using software agents to represent and to assist the activities of consumers and providers within a virtual marketplace. In this invention, "[c]onsumer personal agents conceal the identity of the consumer and are capable of creating decision agents . . . that shop for products and assist consumers in comparing and ranking products. Provider personal agents are capable of creating demand agents . . . that quantify demand and target specific consumers without learning the identity of the consumers. Based on data generated by the activities of the decision agents and on preference data maintained by consumer personal agents, provider personal agents can quantify current, historical, and future demand, simulate demand, and target specific consumers for advertising and other messages. Provider personal agents can cooperate with consumer personal agents to collect data about reasons for sales and lost sales and to offer consideration payments to consumers. Consumer personal agents can automatically reject unsolicited messages that do not satisfy the consumer's preferences."

This exercise points to the ability of latent semantic analysis (the driver of the concept search in Cog IP) to evaluate information and generate related results that can lead the analyst to a deeper understanding of a particular topic, field of research, or intelligence assessment (be it related to health, business, national security, or criminal justice, for example). Using an efficient toolset tailored to the problem at hand greatly reduces the time involved, and significantly increases the likelihood of finding the needle in the proverbial haystack.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Business Methods Monday - Overly Broad Is Not a Good Thing

Business Method Monday - So, you think you have a Patent…Part 2.

Recently, a reader of the “Business Method Monday” Blog series posed a series of questions, one of which was, "why so many of the Patent Applications that are classified as business processes in Class 705 are rejected relative to other classes in the USPTO Classification system?" Arleen pointed out that at least a part of the issue is that most of the 705 art is generally a concept, which in most patent applications is referred to in the claims as a "method", versus being a “machine” or other physical object. Based on what Mike and I have observed, the process of describing what is unique about a “method” appears more difficult and as a result, is very poorly done by many applicants…or whoever was responsible for defining the unique aspects of the “method” on behalf of said applicant. In passing…if the "method" is a program that accomplishes the business “method” claimed, which is the case with most business methods in Class 705, then there are usually further claims covering the "system" or "apparatus" features that are unique and used to execute the “method” you have claimed.

There are some other significant factors for this high rejection rate that Mike and I have observed…

  • Overly Broad Language -- This one is all too common. There are a host of businesses, legal counsel and to a lesser extent inventors, that seem to belong the "use overly broad language school of application development. This faulty logic and advice seems to be directed at the belief that one should be vague about what it is that you are trying to patent and the claims are likewise vague by default...or the equally faulty logic that you should be a broad as possible about what you are claiming. In most cases, this approach results in claims and descriptions that are are rejected for not being specific enough. They fall short of clearly defining what is indeed unique about their "method". While there may be some detail regarding the invention mentioned elsewhere in the Abstract, Description, Figures and the reference to prior art that gives a hint of what might be unique, when that detail is not present in the claims it is usually a fatal mistake. A patent is issued based on what you have claimed that is indeed unique and it will be defended based on said claims.
  • What Did I Invent? -- In some patent applications it is pretty apparent that the author, who we assume and hope was not the inventor, doesn't understand what the invention is. The other option is that the author did not have the skills to clearly define in words what the invention is. In some cases, there was indication of the inventor's intent from the disclosed detail in the Abstract, Description, or Figures, but it was not claimed.
  • Been There Done That -- Then there are the patent applications that fall into the "already been done" category. These application should never have been pursued to start with, as a thorough prior art search would likely have found the prior art that invalidated the claimed subject matter. But then if you are an inventor and don't know how to do a good prior art search this can happen.

There are some very competent Examiners at the USPTO. Given the volume of work the Examiners are required to process odd are if the claims don't clearly define what is unique about your invention even if it is reinforced by the Abstract, Description, Figures and the references to prior art on which the claimed art builds, then the patent application is going to be rejected.

In my previous life with one of the largest holders of patents in the US, we used to just love the vague and broad patents...from our competitors that is. You would hear the phrase from our legal counsel team, "you could drive a truck through this"...and we could and did. The conversation with the patent holders who thought they had this or that covered with their vague or broad patent claims would go basically something like this..."Oh, I'm sorry. So you meant to say that…but you didn't."...and that was pretty much the gist of the conversation.

This needs to stressed and understood by businesses, legal counsel and the inventors involved in applying for a patent…

  • Define what is unique about your invention with reference to all prior art it is based on, where that is applicable, and then building on this prior art, clearly state all the unique aspects of your invention in the claims.
  • Where applicable, state all the possible applications of the art and the possible means of execution that you feel you want to protect. After all, you are filing for a patent to protect your invention, which means there is absolutely NO reason to be vague.
  • You cover "broad" by applying for additional patent applications, specifically covering each possible applications of the art and means of execution. Frequently that leads to addition patent applications and patents covering these applications and means of execution of your invention.

Post by Sean Henderson

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Collaborative Work or Is It? - Business Method MondayFor this post, I'll investigate two examples of art that USPTO has reclassified into 705/300, Co

For this post, I'll investigate two examples of art that USPTO has reclassified into 705/300, Collaborative creation of a product or a service. This is one of the new subclasses Sean touched on in his March 29, 2010 post.

As a refresher, art classified in 705/300 must be ". . . drawn to a computerized arrangement for initial conceptual development, through cooperation between plural parties, (e.g., brainstorming, idea development, etc.), of a commodity or of work that can be performed for another."

As of the day that I'm writing this (April 30), USPTO has not placed any issued patents into this class (in all likelihood because they are still reclassifying the patents that will eventually end up there), as shown by running a search in the USPTO Full Text and Image Database (search criterion CCL/705/300; alternatively, click on the 'P' icon adjacent to 705/300 in the Manual of Classification). Forty-one (41) applications have been placed here (using the 'P' icon link).

Application 20100094761, "Method for User Driven Product Design and Marketing", is for collaborative product development using ad-hoc user groups. Claim 1 provides for ". . . selecting a product theme as a request for proposals to a plurality of individuals enabling said individuals to edit some, all, or none of said submissions and submit the resulting product as a new product submission . . ." This is a good example of the art defined by the definition summarized above. Dependent claim 3 additionally emphasizes collaboration in product theme selection ". . . to be conducted in any manner by some plurality of individuals including an unrelated third party, authors of said request for proposals, and the plurality of individuals responding to the request for proposals."

Application 20070239464, "Networked System and Method for Formulating, Processing and Managing Challenges and Solutions", provides for formulating, processing and managing challenges and solutions, and has been classified by USPTO as 705/300, with no cross-reference classifications. This application appears to be a good example of conflicts in the new 705/300-348 portion of the business methods schedule with subclasses higher in the schedule. Both Sean & I alluded to these conflicts in our recently completed 5-part series.

Claim 1 of this application allows a user ". . . to select whether to create a new challenge or work with an existing challenge that has previously been stored . . ." So far, so good -- this appears to be captured by the 705/300 definition. However, reading further in the claim, a series of interface prompts are provided to the user, one of those prompts being " . . . a resources required prompt . . .", and another being ". . . a potential available resources prompt . . ." The claim concludes by ". . . receiving user input in response to the prompts . . . " The resources referred to are defined in paragraph 28 of the Summary of the Invention as ". . . human resources, equipments, laboratory, computer processing, storage capacity, or other resources likely to be required to address the challenge." These resources, and their allocation as defined in claim 1, are clearly captured by 705/8 Allocating resources or scheduling for an administrative function, which is defined as ". . . the distribution of resources or for scheduling in a business or commercial environment." Thus, this application should have been placed by USPTO in 705/8, with a cross-reference to 705/300.

Conflicts within schedules subject to reclassification projects will continue until the USPTO takes a more comprehensive approach to reviewing entire class schedules with a goal of eliminating internal conflicts, and ensures adequate and accurate communication among all the parties involved (project managers, examiners and classification staff across all the affected General Art Units, contracting officers, and contractors). Inventors and assignees assume the risk that their inventions will not be examined against the proper art.

Today's post is by Mike Bowman.