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US Patent Office Teams With Google On Database

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the free-for-the-looking dept.

Google 82

PatPending writes "The Patent and Trademark Office announced it has reached a two-year 'no-cost' agreement with Google to make patent and trademark data electronically available and free to the public. From the article: 'Saying it lacks the technical capacity to offer such a service, PTO said the two-year agreement with Google is a temporary solution while the agency seeks a contractor to build a database that would allow the public to access such information in electronic machine-readable bulk form.'"

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By lacks technical capability they really mean... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32522076)

...that technically developing their own system would infringe on too many patents.

Re:By lacks technical capability they really mean. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32522150)

It's funny, but it's true.

What will happen if someone tries to troll the patent office once this final contractor job is done? I could see someone sticking the patent office with an "on the web" suit if this thing is supposed to be accessible to the public.

Maybe, then, we'll get some real reform.

Re:By lacks technical capability they really mean. (0)

logjon (1411219) | more than 4 years ago | (#32523052)

Maybe, then, we'll get some real reform.

That's the only thing that will stop it from happening.

car analogy (1)

SCHecklerX (229973) | more than 4 years ago | (#32523168)

You can't patent the way you drive your car. So why can you patent instructions to a computer?

Patent the device. Not how you use it.

If you want to write a book about your driving method, you would get a copyright. Same applies to software.

Software and business method patents need to go away.

Re:car analogy (1)

dave87656 (1179347) | more than 4 years ago | (#32531584)

Patenting software is like patenting math.

Re:car analogy (1)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 4 years ago | (#32533408)

You mean like say DH, RSA and ECC?

Re:car analogy (1)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 4 years ago | (#32533402)

You can't patent the way you drive your car....

Are you sure [freepatentsonline.com] about that?

Re:By lacks technical capability they really mean. (1)

jdgeorge (18767) | more than 4 years ago | (#32524078)

If I understand correctly, the "monopoly" aspect of patent restrictions don't apply to the government. The government can use any patented invention without restriction, but the patent holder is entitled to claim compensation [about.com] from the government. So there may be some truth to your witty observation, due to cost of compensation.

Related, note that often government contractors [invention-protection.com] may be immune to patent infringement claims.

Conflict of interest (0)

oztiks (921504) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522104)

Its kind of impossible to circumvent a conflict of interest here.

If I was Google I'd do it for free as well. The data they'll be a privy too, whilst 'creating' the system would be invaluable.

Sounds like win win situation.

Re:Conflict of interest (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522146)

The data they'll be a privy too, whilst 'creating' the system would be invaluable.

Just out of curiosity, what "data" will they be privy to that isn't already supposed to be available to everyone? Google already serves up individual patents [google.com] . That means they already have the patent information. I assume this would just mean that the USPTO would serve them up applications faster? Or more efficiently? (instead of Google's usual technology of go find it and index it) And then allow for bulk downloads. I've used the USPTO search "engine" many times to reference patents in Slashdot stories and it's horrid compared to Google.

Really to think that Google's getting anything out of this is kind of ... well ... funny. I mean, I think there are other private search sites like Thomsom West that charge you per hour to use their search engine to crawl their indexes of laws and court cases that should be public data in the first place. I wouldn't go complaining about Google making the patent process more transparent and searchable if I were you ...

In my opinion, this is a very good development.

Re:Conflict of interest (3, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522156)

Certainly could be good for Google if all of Microsoft's patents somehow end up showing up as Google patents :p

Re:Conflict of interest (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522250)

Really to think that Google's getting anything out of this is kind of ... well ... funny.

They're getting good PR from it. I say "Yay, Google!"

Re:Conflict of interest (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522536)

They're getting a public more empowered to see the ludicrous situation the PTO is in lately and to challenge silly patents which never should have been granted. As Google writes much software and software patents tend to be easily gained and broadly protected (think MPEG-LA and H.264) that can only be a good thing for them as well as everyone else who isn't a patent troll.

Re:Conflict of interest (1)

ATMAvatar (648864) | more than 4 years ago | (#32525554)

At the very least, it should be much simpler to search through existing patents/trademarks and avoid the legal landmines as well as find prior art more efficiently when applying for/challenging a patent/trademark.

Re:Conflict of interest (1)

oztiks (921504) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522306)

Welp, firstly you said was complaining no I didn't complain I was saying "If I was Google I'd do it".

Second, your telling me that there is nothing confidential about USPTO? Right, okay .... Next please!

Re:Conflict of interest (2, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522420)

Welp, firstly you said was complaining no I didn't complain I was saying "If I was Google I'd do it".

From the definition of Conflict of Interest [wikipedia.org] : "A conflict of interest (COI) occurs when an individual or organization is involved in multiple interests, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation for an act in the other." I would assume that by titling your post as "Conflict of Interest" and also saying that there is no way to circumvent it, you were complaining of corruption between Google and the United States Patent Office. Was I incorrect in my assumption?

Second, your telling me that there is nothing confidential about USPTO? Right, okay .... Next please!

Although parts of the process remain confidential, I question why any of it needs to be confidential. The material patented is confidential as the entity submitting it sees fit until they apply for it. Once the application has been submitted, then it's public. Hence the phrase "patent pending" to remind everyone that their invention is in process to become their intellectual property. A patent examiner employed by the federal government then gets the patent and reviews it for errors. They do some undetermined amount of research for prior art or related patents. This is confidential only because it's too laborious to publicize. As revisions are made, those are public too. Really the only confidential part is what the hell is going on inside the examiner's mind. And sometimes (like the Amazon 1-click), everyone would benefit from any sort of logic outlined by the examiner. Once it's approved, you better believe it's public and nothing should be confidential. Especially if you're about to get your ass sued over a patent ... how could anything related to that patent be held confidential and then be used against you in court?

You know, for a while the USPTO was seriously considering a wiki -- maybe even a community wiki -- where people could review new patents and discuss them with links to other patents and potential prior art. The problems with this idea is only that those making the comments would most likely not have the patent law expertise and it would amount to a landslide of opinions rather than real claims.

Transparency and publication of the entire patent process -- to the best of the USPTO's ability -- provides accountability and reliability to those of us who both benefit and suffer from patents. Trust me, you're barking up the wrong tree here and I'm at a loss for words to respond to your attitude of "next please!"

Re:Conflict of interest (1)

oztiks (921504) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522594)

Okay, here it is, I've never worked for UPSTO so I can't be 100% certain but I have worked for government organizations and understand the concept of process.

Public information is the result. I.E Patent Pending, approved, rejected, whatever ... That's the result.

Business names are public domain, Trademarks a public domain. Does that mean we see the 10 page application form leading up to the "resulted" public domain information or as the public do we simply get to the see the cliff notes?

Google has basically put their hand up to CRM a massive database of very valuable information, which goes beyond the scope of what the public will see. To think otherwise is plain nieve.

Re:Conflict of interest (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522962)

LOL; First, you make a lot of assumptions. I am sure that there is an internal DB for USPTO to use, but I seriously doubt that it will be made available to Google. To even assume so, well, that is not naive, just plain stupid.

Re:Conflict of interest (1)

oztiks (921504) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522622)

I might add, Google is also getting direct access to this "public domain" data.

The "public" gets single keyword query access to it.

That alone demonstrates a conflict of interest because it enables Google to draw analytical data from the database that noone else in the world could possibly generate (except for maybe UPSTO)

Re:Conflict of interest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32525878)

Except you know, you can buy this info on DVD every month from the PTO *right now*.
But why bother actually understanding what they are getting before going on some moronic tirade

Re:Conflict of interest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32522434)

Are you fucking retarded? The entire point of this database is to make it available to the public, so basic common sense would dictate that none of the information in it is confidential. Patent and Trademark applications are by definition public record. Perhaps you'd like to clarify exactly what confidential information you think there is in there?

Re:Conflict of interest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32525368)

You are a moron.
There is no confidential info in what Google is getting, it is all by definition, public information.
You could walk into the PTO and request any of it.
You can buy it on DVD from the PTO as well.

Re:Conflict of interest (1)

wiltonic (1781334) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522814)

Google gains access to who is searching for which patents, and the search terms they use to do so. And the searches which show no matches are potentially much more interesting than those that give many results. I bet it would be fascinating reading to know which patents other companies are searching for, especially those not currently part of their core business.

Re:Conflict of interest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32524284)

Really? You need to be more paranoid! At first they'll just host the data, but eventually you'll submit your patent application directly to Google. At that point how hard would it be for them to occasionally flag an interesting patent, enter their own seconds before the legit one, and profit? It wouldn't be all that different from the micro trading on Wall Street.

Re:Conflict of interest (1)

orgelspieler (865795) | more than 4 years ago | (#32525400)

Probably the extra data will be the patent file wrappers. That's where all the good stuff is when you're trying to challenge a patent or defend against a patent lawsuit. Speaking from experience, the wrapper can be orders of magnitude larger than the patent itself. Generally, the wrapper is not readily available. You have to pay a $200 fee [uspto.gov] to get a copy of it, more if it's over 400 pages.

Re:Conflict of interest (1)

bhiestand (157373) | more than 4 years ago | (#32555318)

The data they'll be a privy too, whilst 'creating' the system would be invaluable.

Just out of curiosity, what "data" will they be privy to that isn't already supposed to be available to everyone?

Analytics. There's probably a lot of potential intelligence to be gleaned since, according to the article, Google will actually be hosting the site.

I hope they steer clear of that, but if they collect too much data it could open up quite a few cans of worms. "Oh hey, Microsoft's legal department has been searching for ____ patents lately and keeps going back to these patent numbers."

Really to think that Google's getting anything out of this is kind of ... well ... funny. I mean, I think there are other private search sites like Thomsom West that charge you per hour to use their search engine to crawl their indexes of laws and court cases that should be public data in the first place. I wouldn't go complaining about Google making the patent process more transparent and searchable if I were you ...

I'd rather see Google develop the code, database, application, whatever else needs to be done, and have it hosted on PTO servers. That said, I agree that I'd rather have Google doing this than any of the legal databases.

Re:Conflict of interest - nope (2, Insightful)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522154)

what part of making it available to the public/world is some magic google advantage?

The idea here is that it will be open for everyone.

your argument here is pathetic.

Re:Conflict of interest - nope (2, Insightful)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522362)

"The idea here is that it will be open for everyone." is interesting thinking back to the indexing paywalls of "free' public data loved by many firms.
The magic google advantage is depth and spread. Gone are the regional and state and single topic databases.
What might be offered to consumers for free, could be packaged in with vast amounts other data for paying customers eg government agencies or their private sector partners.

Re:Conflict of interest - nope (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 4 years ago | (#32523766)

wha?

how could a company not index google's data? It's not like it's hidden. Google even lets people search within PDFs and things that don't explicitly have text data.

This sounds less like a paywall and a lot more like "here's a book. go read it"

Re:Conflict of interest - nope (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 4 years ago | (#32524040)

"here's a patent. go read it" dont mind the long term cookie, ads?
The interest in any one or sets patent getting more reads than the 'average' of others could be useful too.
Trends start to form, think of the logged search data before and after after you register a patent.
Thats a lot of unique long term marketing and predictive power linked back to a unique person.

Re:Conflict of interest - nope (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 4 years ago | (#32524176)

yes, clickstream data, etc. Remind me again what does this have to do with other people being able to harness the patent information itself, which was the purpose?

google already owns the search share, whether you open a patent link or not they already know what you are searching for. It's not exactly a whole lot of extra information.

Now your concept of using that data to determine patents, etc? What makes you think google even cares? It's the courts that matter. If they really need something invalidated they'll just fight it tooth and nail in court, or just wait for the court system to determine, such as bilski.

The rest of what you are saying is so off the grid that I can't find it at all even remotely logical. You're seriously stretching logic on this in ways that do not seem based on anything. You can search for patents on bing too! oh no! what will we do! /sheesh.

Re:Conflict of interest - nope (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 4 years ago | (#32523786)

I should add, since when was data for paying customers ever free? "free for personal use, pay for corporate use" has been the motto of most licenses/software for significantly more years than it should be.

Re:Conflict of interest (1)

Hinhule (811436) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522186)

What?

"A patent (pronounced /pætnt/ or /petnt/) is a set of exclusive rights granted by a state (national government) to an inventor or their assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for a public disclosure of an invention."

How is access to already public information invaluable?
I can see a small advantage in being able to search it with better algoritms though.

Re:Conflict of interest (1)

ami.one (897193) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522192)

But it's all public information - google would just make it more accessible. How would they benefit from it ?

Re:Conflict of interest (1)

oztiks (921504) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522338)

Gee i donno, a big fucken database given to a big fucken advertising firm ...

Re:Conflict of interest (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522670)

A big database of already public information. Balance the cost of them writing something to go crawl and index this info against the cost of setting up and maintaining it and I'd hardly say they're gaining a massive benefit from this. Do you think they're going to somehow be able to use this information to somehow serve more appropriate adverts to inventors? Or that people paying for ads will somehow care that they're offering a free, short term database facility to a public body?

Re:Conflict of interest (2, Insightful)

schon (31600) | more than 4 years ago | (#32524390)

Gee i donno, a big fucken database given to a big fucken advertising firm ...

How about you skip the handwaving and answer the fucken(sp) question

Or are you just about spreading FUD today?

Re:Conflict of interest (1)

Jedi Alec (258881) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522572)

The same way they profit from all the other websites they offer free of charge...by slapping some of their ads on?

Hmm...context-sensitive ads in a search engine for patents...I see potential for giggles.

Patenting code. (1)

jack2000 (1178961) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522106)

Make it impossible.

Re:Patenting code. (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522174)

This could be a step towards making it impossible - if Google make it a great deal easier to do a patent search for software, then it will get done more often. This will be shortly followed by a wider spread realization that you can't write any significant program without infringing a disastrous number of patents, which will hopefully lead to a larger lobby against patenting software.

Re:Patenting code. (1)

bunratty (545641) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522542)

Code isn't patented. Algorithms are patented. Code is copyrighted. Names are trademarked. The name of Firefox is trademarked, the software and artwork are copyrighted, and it uses some patented algorithms.

Re:Patenting code. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32524892)

Except mathematical algorithms aren't supposed to be patentable.

That's nice. (1)

LaminatorX (410794) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522138)

Hopefully the patent examiners will check it themselves before approving applications.

while the agency seeks a contractor??? (5, Insightful)

rwv (1636355) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522166)

the two-year agreement with Google is a temporary solution while the agency seeks a contractor to build a database that would allow the public to access such information in electronic machine-readable bulk form

And what role is Google serving if they spend two years hosting the patents in their database while the USPTO spends 24 months looking for a contractor who will presumably charge money to do the same thing?

Why not have Google spend two-years building the interface with a plan to turn control of it over to USPTO employees in 2012? It seems like by then the USPTO could have gained the technical skills necessary to administer their database instead of turning to keys over to some different 3rd party contractor.

No?

Re:while the agency seeks a contractor??? (1)

happy_place (632005) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522304)

If this is anything like most government contracts and big bulky computer database projects, what this probably means is that Google has done a better job on its own implementing patent search on the broken system, than the contractor that they'd hired and was busy spending government money. The say they're seeking a contractor, because the last one probably spent a lot of money and delivered something that was no better than a simple internet search that's free. But they can't say that, because they need the government to continue to spend lots of money on their department, so that they still look relevant, and get paid by taxpayers maintenance/operational costs, once a newer, shinier big expensive system is put into place by some other contractor that they're hoping won't take them to the cleaners. (just a guess... imo...)

Re:while the agency seeks a contractor??? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522458)

How many patents are there? A couple million? That's peanuts. One could easily build an application using free and open software to host and search all that data. Throw 5 geeks at it, and you could have most of the problems solved in a year. Then, the USPTO would be in complete control of the whole thing, and wouldn't have to worry about what happens when some company, decides it isn't in their best interest to host it anymore, and decides to drop it. The number of searches that would be done on a system like this would probably be low enough that you could host it on less than a rack of servers, possibly just 6U of space would be needed.

Don't you know that contractors are always better? (5, Informative)

BenEnglishAtHome (449670) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522584)

Why not have Google spend two-years building the interface with a plan to turn control of it over to USPTO employees in 2012? It seems like by then the USPTO could have gained the technical skills necessary to administer their database instead of turning to keys over to some different 3rd party contractor.

You don't understand how government IT works these days.

Most government IT shops in the U.S. have not yet recovered from the election of Bush the Younger. When he came into office, the overall attitude of the new guys in charge was that they hated government, hated government workers, and believed that it was a God-given truth that all government workers are incompetent at all things they do. Thus, anything that could be contracted out must be contracted out. Internal IT got downsized, outsourced, demoralized, broken, and spat on in many, many places.

Just as an aside, this idiocy reached such insane heights that high-level executives at one government agency [irs.gov] actually floated a plan to do away with internal local IT support and replace it, where feasible, with something called "depot maintenance." Reduced to nuts and bolts, they actually considered contracting with Best Buy for certain instances of in-the-field deskside support! This made perfect sense to the bigwigs. After all, Best Buy is private industry so they must be more competent than anyone who actually works for the agency, right?

That attitude crippled many agencies and most have yet to recover. Even if Google built the system and handed it over with a ribbon around it, it's likely that the executives at USPTO would go looking for a contractor to charge lots of money to run the thing. (Disclaimer: I'm not there; I'm just speaking from broad experience with multiple agencies. I hope somone from USPTO will chime in.)

It's just part of the culture. I know it seems bad, but eventually people will wake up to the fact that if you keep electing people who believe that all government is bad, the result is going to be...well...bad government. Self-fulfilling prophecy and all that, doncha know.

Re:Don't you know that contractors are always bett (3, Informative)

will_die (586523) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522882)

Please get over your hate.
I was a federal IT employee during the time when all this outsourcing got going, there should still be paperwork with my signature contracting out jobs, I read all the paperwork on doing it and everything else and it start and was organized by ex-President Clinton. All the studies, reports, and decisions continued in the Bush administration came from Clinton.
The main reason Clinton gave for outsourcing everything had the main points of being cheaper, being able to get the job done(not able to hire enough federal employees and flexibility of not being locked in with the federal employees and the loss of new skills that gave.
Now all this new insourcing the reports and analysis they are using are all coming from studies ordered during the Bush administration, except they are ignoring the warning given in the reports and just told people to insource. This is now leading to people building up empires and it is now costing more then the proposed cost saving. You did have President Bush allowing more experimentation to see if some positions would save money and generate similar results some worked out and others were failures and insourced.

Re:Don't you know that contractors are always bett (2, Interesting)

BenEnglishAtHome (449670) | more than 4 years ago | (#32523020)

I have lots of reasons to hate Bush and the problems that hit my agency while he was Prez are, actually, fairly low on that list. He screwed up lots of other things, too. And "hate" is too strong a word, implying a personal animosity that doesn't exist in this case. I just think he was a lousy president.

As for it all starting under Clinton, I'll take your word for it. After Clinton personally (I repeat: *personally*) killed a project I was peripherally involved with, I never had much use for the guy. You know you've pissed off someone up high when an executive in your agency walks into the group, calls everybody into a meeting, tells everybody to cease all work without even returning pending phone calls, and orders that all records be shredded starting the instant the meeting ends. :-)

So if you say Clinton started it, I'll go along with that. You must admit, though, that the process accelerated and the attitude toward government employees truly went into the crapper under Bush, right?

Re:Don't you know that contractors are always bett (1)

will_die (586523) | more than 4 years ago | (#32523328)

So if you say Clinton started it, I'll go along with that. You must admit, though, that the process accelerated and the attitude toward government employees truly went into the crapper under Bush, right?
It existed before and not really has changed. Take for instance the job I currently work, when I came in as a contractor there were 4 people working it, myself and 3 federal employees, over the last couple of years those people were moved to other duties and what was done increase, no problem I have a long list of things to do but generally get them everything done in time.
I was recently insourced as part of President obamas insource everyone so we can save $41,000 per person(this was based on reports ordered by President Bush but did not apply to this blanket insourcing) and they are now in the processes of having what I was doing done by 6 federal employees, myself and 5 others and some of the work I was doing is going away.
If that is not a poor attitude on what can be done by federal employees then what is?

Re:Don't you know that contractors are always bett (2, Interesting)

BenEnglishAtHome (449670) | more than 4 years ago | (#32523960)

You make a good point. I've seen several situation like you describe, as well as variations thereof.

Anecdote: A friend of mine retired a while back. He was incredibly stressed and overworked. He was extremely competent and hardworking, but the crushing workload eventually wore him out. He'd been asking for help for years.

He was a GS 11. When he retired, management put a new person in the job, tried that for a while, then re-assessed the situation. When all was said and done, that single GS 11 employee was eventually replaced by two GS 12s and three GS 7s.

My point? In government service, like anywhere else, sometimes it doesn't pay to be as good as you can be. You'll just get worked to death by an uncaring management that displays (as in your situation) a lamentable set of attitudes toward their own people. Even so, there are good and lousy employees in every organization and making assumptions about the competence of people based on whether they work in the public or private sector is never smart. You just can't tell.

Re:Don't you know that contractors are always bett (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 4 years ago | (#32524024)

The best solution is graceful failure.

Elements include

* every positive attitude
* identify critical vs non-critical
* fail to meet deadlines
* do quality work otherwise

Management is blind to your true capability- they will walk you over a cliff. They are taught until things start failing, the staff isn't really at capacity yet. And that's true. It's the only real way to know. People bitch and complain and then go back to browsing and posting on slashdot.

Re:Don't you know that contractors are always bett (1)

BenEnglishAtHome (449670) | more than 4 years ago | (#32525490)

Excellent points.

I've had extensive "quality improvement process" training. The best lessons I've learned concern "facilitating failure." Unfortunately, until something fails, it doesn't get fixed.

I have to occasionally remind myself of that.

Re:Don't you know that contractors are always bett (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 4 years ago | (#32523952)

Yes, the Clinton administration did bring a push for an overhaul to inefficient government. The entire program was to be led by his Vice President and it was. And they accomplished setting the program into motion but as with any government program things take time and the whole idea fit well with the Republican base which is why much of it was continued, although not all and not under the same name--which is why some people are confused.

In the end this is just another level in the on-going and fruitless battle that the political branch has with the administrative and one which will never be solved.

Re:Don't you know that contractors are always bett (1)

Bodero (136806) | more than 4 years ago | (#32525848)

You don't understand how government IT works these days.

Most government IT shops in the U.S. have not yet recovered from the election of Bush the Younger. When he came into office, [cut for sanity]

Right, it's all Bush's fault. Just like everything else.

Re:while the agency seeks a contractor??? (1)

MarkGriz (520778) | more than 4 years ago | (#32523234)

Why not have Google spend two-years building the interface with a plan to turn control of it over to USPTO employees in 2012?

How exactly does any government employee get a kickback from that scheme?

Re:while the agency seeks a contractor??? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 4 years ago | (#32525210)

And what role is Google serving if they spend two years hosting the patents in their database while the USPTO spends 24 months looking for a contractor who will presumably charge money to do the same thing?

Well, I dunno, but if I was going to guess who was going to be in a position to offer the lowest bid to USPTO, I'd think it would be the one that had already sunk the costs for much of the work, and who thus would most likely have the least additional cost if they got the contract.

Re:while the agency seeks a contractor??? (1)

will_die (586523) | more than 4 years ago | (#32528748)

Only problem is that when awarded the government will want to own the hardware and software, by license if a commercial program. So the biggest part of this contract will be the supplying of people. Those are not really something Google is known for or is setup for.

Honestly (4, Insightful)

thejynxed (831517) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522168)

I don't understand why they would bother seeking to farm this out to a different contractor, just allow Google to do the entire thing and tack a nice link on to their main search engine website that everyone can access. I mean honestly, Google does this thing best, no need to complicate things with yet another overly-long and costly-to-the-taxpayer bidding/contract process.

Re:Honestly (2, Interesting)

Random2 (1412773) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522358)

Yes, because we want an international private business controlling who can see the patent office.

Remember the very recent break in at google by Chinese agents working against their human rights movement [slashdot.org] ? Yes, let's set up a situation where we could hand over all of our patents to the very lax IP enforcement of china.

Re:Honestly (1)

nwmann (946016) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522526)

"a database that would allow the public to access such information in electronic machine-readable bulk form." in what way is china unable to get this information without breaking in?

Re:Honestly (3, Insightful)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522586)

Patents are already public information. Even if you put up a firewall, it's still public within the US. If you think the PRC isn't smart enough to hire someone to look up patents and send them a file, you're very racist or very shortsighted.

Re:Honestly (1)

Random2 (1412773) | more than 4 years ago | (#32530670)

No, the initial post was mostly a troll to try and stir some conversation. Seems to have worked though.

Re:Honestly (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 4 years ago | (#32525654)

And a private contractor is going to be less "malicious" than Google how? All the data is public anyway. As long as Google includes the data as part of their data liberation project, and makes it easy to take the data elsewhere if the USPTO decided to, I don't see the problem.

Three cheers for google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32522230)

Patents should be freely available to the public. When you patent an idea it goes into the public domain and you can stop keeping it a secret in your garden shed.

The current system where patent searches are slow beurocratic rambles through paper files is mad. It makes patent lawyers one of the most highly paid proffessions, as they know how to navigate the system.

This is a big step forward and I applaud google for doing this.

THis is kind of stupid (3, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522664)

THey should instead create a master DB that allows easy entry for themselves and for search engines to browse it easily. Then open up any and ALL search engines, with the proviso that all information will made available to all (IOW, for any search engine that limits it to a certain population, say, "You must use our browser or our platform"). If the search engine makes it limited to a single platform, say Bing decides to carry it and limits it to MSIE, or makes it sux for anything except for WIndows, then they are denied the data. Finally, if this approach does not work, then USPTO should undertake creation of a search engine.

Re:THis is kind of stupid (1)

Kijori (897770) | more than 4 years ago | (#32525372)

I think the point is that the UPTO doesn't have the expertise to build any of this in-house, so they're looking for someone to do it for them and in the meantime letting Google give access to the information. Seems a reasonable solution to me.

Re:THis is kind of stupid (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#32526624)

The problem is that they will NEVER have the expertise. THey are looking to contract it out. So, now, they will pay somebody to provide this information, of which the search engine will be way behind.

Keep in mind that it is not just the data, but the ability to access it quickly that matters. USPTO will never get up there quickly. So, they should provide a means for others to provide it. That is why I suggest creating a DB that makes it easy for all engines to access. And as long as they provide NONE DISCRIMINATORY access TO ALL DATA, then that engine can continue. As long as there is at least several engines, then all is good. Once the number of engines is down to several, then USPTO should create their own. Until then, lets have companies like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc provide the access.

to ensure there's no competitive advantage... (4, Insightful)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522788)

...USPTO should release all raw data and metadata for public consumption. If Google or anyone else want to build a frontend to it, let them do so.

Re:to ensure there's no competitive advantage... (1)

Gudeldar (705128) | more than 4 years ago | (#32528050)

Google is hosting all the raw data and metadata for public consumption. Google already has a frontend for patents, if Bing or Yahoo wanted to build their own patent search all they would have to do is go to Google's website and download the raw data. You can download the data yourself if you really want to (it would have been nice if the article included a link).

http://www.google.com/googlebooks/uspto.html [google.com]

Re:to ensure there's no competitive advantage... (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 4 years ago | (#32539810)

Yeah, that's not the same thing, is it? I don't want Google getting their hands on free bulk electronic government data before anyone else.

The TESS [uspto.gov] has been in place since 2000, for example, with subscriptions available to anyone who wants them and without favouring any particular corporation or individual. Notice how many months newer the searchable database is than the bulk downloads available from Google?

I mean, what could a corporation do with early access to an electronic copy of trademarks and patents data? How could that possibly be abused?

Re:to ensure there's no competitive advantage... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32530214)

They have. For 200 years. Any schmuck can walk into the USPTO or any of several public locations around the US and read a hard copy of any patent. The paper copy IS the raw data and metadata.

search on patents that don't exist (1)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 4 years ago | (#32522938)

It will be an advantageous position if google can examine the good ideas that people search on that patents don't exist for yet. That is if they maintain an interest in the software.

PTO Evilness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32523068)

Of COURSE they want to use Google. The new "I'm just like Bing" wallpaper that Google is using to make search results unreadable plays right into the hands of those who depend on the current patent mess.

I say just let google/bing do their thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32523148)

Just let the PTO plop the patents onto a set of web-pages, Google, Bing et al. will find them.

Google Needs to Do this for More Public Data (3, Interesting)

gpmanrpi (548447) | more than 4 years ago | (#32523376)

They really need to hit these pay-wall for public information businesses hard. I am tired of paying Thompson-West $250/Month for access to cases that my own tax dollars paid for. If they can monetize the process with advertising, the government can get a cut, and the whole process could end up actually saving tax payers money. Maybe the PTO can hire a few more people.

Re:Google Needs to Do this for More Public Data (1)

deblau (68023) | more than 4 years ago | (#32529008)

I believe this [resource.org] is what you are looking for.

They already use prison labor...didja know that? (1)

droopus (33472) | more than 4 years ago | (#32523632)

Bet you didn't know this. As I've posted, I just spent a few years at lovely (cough) FCI Elkton [bop.gov] in Ohio. As with most BOP facilities, Elkton has a UNICOR [unicor.gov] "factory" where inmates work for up to $1 per hour, (though most make much, much less) to turn out furniture (Living in a dorm? It's probably got UNICOR furniture), mattresses, fencing, various types of wire, signs, lockers, filters, even prescription eyewear. And they also make guided missile components, batteries, injection molds, even power transformers and equipment. Wanna see [unicor.gov] a list?

And of course, they can compete with real companies, at insanely low prices because of near-slave labor. Nike has nothing on UNICOR.

But wait! There's more! [unicor.gov] Yes, UNICOR will handle all your sensitive documents and assign hundreds of barely trained drooling inmates (anyone with computer skills is banned from the work, as you would expect from the Government. I worked there for two weeks till they found out I had skills and banned me from the factory.) to take your paper documents (like Patent applications), use 1980's scanners and then get inmates to "fix" the scans manually on cutting edge Pentium 4 computers, discarded as "e-waste" by the US Government.

Need OCR/Coding/Indexing [unicor.gov] ? No other company can touch our prices. And sure! You can trust our Luddite sex offenders not to talk about the contents of your patent to, say, a competitor.

Oh, the XML? They sub that out, since no Federal inmate is allowed by statute to write even markup code.

Or, maybe you have tons of sensitive paper documents that need electronic imaging [unicor.gov] ? We will hand your precious records to our cadre of drug dealers (remember, if they've so much as written an email, they are forbidden! Only the very worst and stupidest for us!) and let them copy each one by hand. They won't take any. Really. [nonstick.com] Nope.

So! You can trust the USPTO with your work of a lifetime, they'll take care of it and secure it with all the power of the US Government.

This is just about BULK downloads (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 4 years ago | (#32525404)

The USPTO has had their patent files on line for years. They're at the USPTO site. [uspto.gov] There's a reasonable search engine. Not only are the patents themselves there, but the whole "file wrapper" history information is available. However, it's rate limited to about 1000 patents per day per user.

What Google is doing, apparently, is making the entire database available for bulk download. The USPTO sells that database, and the other patent-indexing services buy it. But you have to get it on Digital Linear Tapes (DLT) and it costs several thousand dollars, because of the size of the data set. Google is apparently willing to put that data out for full download in exchange for getting their copy for free. And the USPTO gets out of the tape copying business.

Oh, oh, Jeff Bezos is getting in on this! (1)

PatPending (953482) | more than 4 years ago | (#32525808)

In related news, Jeff Bezos has just submitted a patent application to do this bulk download in 1-Click [slashdot.org] or 1-Nod [slashdot.org] .

There's value in search strings & their whois (1)

PatPending (953482) | more than 4 years ago | (#32527924)

One question is: will Google record (and post-process) search strings and the ip addresses associated with them? Or will searches be anonymous?

If the former, there is (potentially) great value in knowing that (for example) Microsoft is searching for prior art related to "concurrent interactive television for network connected devices"

In Google We Trust? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32585626)

This could be quite a valuable resource. I continue to be impressed by the actions of USPTO Director David Kappos, who actually seems to understand that providing greater accessibility and services to the public may, in turn, contribute to increased efficiency and improved good will for the USPTO -- and for patent law [generalpatent.com] itself. The only thing about this that gives me pause is Google's involvement. Ever since I learned that they've enlisted the help of the NSA in their operations, I'm a little wary of any measures that could give them even greater power over data. Add to that their recent legal troubles stemming from the "accidental" collection of WiFi information. But at least in this case, Google is disseminating information, rather than collecting it ... one hopes.

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