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Google Government Patents Technology

US Patent Office Teams With Google On Database 82

Posted by samzenpus
from the free-for-the-looking dept.
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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US Patent Office Teams With Google On Database

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, 2010 @08:00AM (#32522076)

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

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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.

    • 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.

    • by jdgeorge (18767)

      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.

  • Make it impossible.
    • 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.

    • by bunratty (545641)
      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: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Except mathematical algorithms aren't supposed to be patentable.

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

  • by rwv (1636355) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @08:16AM (#32522166) Homepage Journal

    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?

    • 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 t
    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      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 sys
    • by BenEnglishAtHome (449670) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @09:17AM (#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.

      • by will_die (586523) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @09:51AM (#32522882) Homepage
        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: (Score:3, Interesting)

          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. Y

          • by will_die (586523)
            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 lo
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              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

              • 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.

                • 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.

        • by garcia (6573)

          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 bat

      • by Bodero (136806)

        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.

    • by MarkGriz (520778)

      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?

    • 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.

      • by will_die (586523)
        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 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thejynxed (831517) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @08:16AM (#32522168) Homepage

    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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Random2 (1412773)

      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.

      • by nwmann (946016)
        "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 (Score:4, Insightful)

        by mr_mischief (456295) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @09:17AM (#32522586) Journal

        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.

        • by Random2 (1412773)

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

      • 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.
  • by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @09:27AM (#32522664) Journal
    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.
    • by Kijori (897770)

      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.

      • 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 DISC
  • by FuckingNickName (1362625) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @09:40AM (#32522788) Journal

    ...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.

    • by Gudeldar (705128)
      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]
      • 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

  • 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.
  • by gpmanrpi (548447) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @10:38AM (#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.

  • 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 transformer

  • 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

  • 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].
  • 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"

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