Happy Holidays everyone! I woke up this morning to the Christmas sunrise over Miami Beach on Christmas morning. Having grown up in this town–where Christmas means a trip to the beach, not the joy of new ice skates–I am feeling a whole lot of holiday spirit. This made me realize that I have been meaning to respond to some inquiries folks have made about patent searching tools that I use in my daily IP Strategy work. Since most of these are free (or almost) free, consider this your holiday gift from me!
I hear it now: “Free? Did she say free? But, such and such company wants to charge me $1500 a month, which is a much better deal than my lawyers charge me for monitoring patents in my business space on an ongoing basis. And, this consultant offered to do a whitespace analysis that would solve all my innovation issues for $20K, which seemed like a deal, given how much time he said it would save my team so that we could get our new product lines to market so much faster.”
Certainly, in the last few years, there have been countless business models that have sprung up to help business professionals navigate the virtual morass of patent information that resulted from increased transparency of issued patents and published patent applications emanating from the dozens of established patent systems in the world. As more countries are developing modern patent systems, the information volume only increases as their documents come online. This overload of data has lead to entrepreneurial activities focused on the analysis of the data, effectively looking at the situation as a data volume problem, not an information retrieval problem. As I have written about before, I think most of these products are at best a waste of your money and, at worst dangerous because reliance on the wrong conclusions can take your business down the wrong path.
But this blog post is not about the problems with existing data and analysis vendors and products, this blog post is about how to reduce your reliance on their products, either partially or entirely using free or almost free products. Sure, the US Patent Office website has been free for years, but it is currently not user-friendly, nor is it possible for a layman to download information. I expect that Google Patent Search will become easier to use as time goes on, especially as the company works more closely with the US Patent Office, but right now it is also not possible to download files, and am I not entirely comfortable with the use of Google’s search algorithm’s to properly parse the typically arcane legal language of patents (and wonder if I ever will be). Continue reading