USPTO Puts Data in the Hands of Innovators


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USPTO Innovation Lab
The USPTO Innovation Lab

Guest blog post by Thomas A. Beach, Senior Advisor & Acting Program Manager of Digital Services & Data Analytics

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has been in the business of “open data” since the very beginning of the agency’s history, when President Washington signed the First Patent Act into law in 1790. But while this information was always “open” in the sense that issued patents were available to the public, it wasn’t necessarily accessible. Now, in the USPTO Innovation Lab (pictured), the USPTO’s Open Data and Mobility program is providing new platforms and sustainable ways to find, use, and manipulate data.

Historically, intellectual property (IP) information was found by searching through extensive paper records. In fact, the USPTO’s stacks of patents were filed in what were called “shoes,” which according to lore refers to Thomas Jefferson using shoe boxes to store patent applications, when he served as Secretary of State and our nation’s first patent examiner.

Today, the USPTO has a mountain of scientific knowledge in the millions of patent applications the agency receives. This is no accident—it’s part of the fundamental bargain in the Progress Clause of our Constitution. In exchange for disclosing an invention to the public—including what it is and how it works—the inventor gets exclusive rights for a limited period of time.

The administration has taken many important steps towards making government data accessible with the Presidential Memorandum on “Building a 21st Century Digital Government” and to providing better digital services to the American people with the development of a comprehensive digital government strategy. The USPTO is delivering on this call, and just in the last year, addressed a White House Executive Action to improve transparency of ownership of patents with new, award winning tools. Assignment Search makes it simpler for the public to locate patent assignment information using a modernized interface that provides more searchable fields and the ability to easily filter and narrow the results. The popular new web tool, PatentsView, highlighted in a Commerce blog, explores nearly 40 years of research data on patenting activity with visualization tools that leverage application programming interfaces (APIs) and utilize disambiguation algorithms. This past fall, the USPTO also hosted an iconathon, a crowdsourcing- based workshop harnessing the skills of students, artists, and intellectual property enthusiasts to create a set of new universal IP icons.

The USPTO modernized the PAIR Bulk Data (beta), now allowing customers to retrieve and download multiple records of the filing status of U.S. patent applications or patents at no cost. New features include the ability to search 27 fields, download customized bulk data results in a modern user interface, download the entire dataset in XML or JSON format API’s, and empower customers to build their own customized patent data applications or mobile apps. The related Bulk Data Storage System was released last fall to provide a single master repository of public raw bulk data hosted by the USPTO, which includes patent grant data beginning in 1790, some trademark data as far back as 1884, along with patent application, patent trial and appeal decision,  trademark trial and appeal data and much more.

The most innovative product to date is the USPTO Developer Page (beta), a platform which makes data faster and easier to use and manipulate, and features the ability to comb USPTO data with other data, such as economic data, report data on filings rates, inventorship, assignee, and location of filing, into interactive visual user stories. In late April, this site will include functionality to create data stories as well as a community café, where anyone with modest programming experience can explore the data and share interesting findings with the online community.

Staff across the USPTO couldn’t be more excited about the Open Data and Mobility program and the countless opportunities these open data platforms will provide for the public. The USPTO even launched Club for Open Data Enthusiasts, (C.O.D.E.) one of the federal government’s first affinity group dedicated to discussing the power of open data and exploring solutions to open data-related issues. For more information, email [email protected].

There are more upgrades and enhancements planned, as the USPTO continues to expand its open data program to improve the discoverability, accessibility, and usability of public patent and trademark data. By placing information in the hands of innovators and entrepreneurs, the goal is to allow them to see what’s come before them—what’s worked commercially and what hasn’t— and empower a more innovative society.

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Last updated: 2016-03-25 10:36

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