The 2012 PIUG conference began with a speech entitled “Why I Hate Patents.” The speaker, a venture capitalist, lamented that the U.S. patent regime, at least in the areas of computer science and business methods, has had the opposite of its intended effect: it actually stifles innovation and hinders economic growth. Judging from the applause and questions that followed, the speech was warmly received, and served as a useful reminder that the patent search community is not necessarily pro patent.
The remainder of the conference presentations and vendors centered on two types of technologies: visualization and document grouping. As presented, these platforms were closely interrelated in that the visualization software focused largely on generated representations of document clusters. The visualization demonstrations made for engaging slide presentations, but at least one speaker questioned their utility: a document cluster looks like it imparts a wealth of information and may well impress the patent researchers’ superiors, but what useful information does one actually gain? The document grouping, or search, presentations had as their conceit algorithms that would either search using natural language capability or that would heuristically adapt to the user’s search preferences.
None of the technology platforms really made use of the existing patent classification schemes. Indeed, the one presentation that prominently featured classification schemes was from the EPO, a non-commercial entity. By graphing primary and secondary IPC classifications against time, the EPO presenter was able to demonstrate increasing commercial interest in non-metallic battery technology – an immediate and practical use that virtually none of the for-profit technologies could match. In addition, the EPO’s efforts in assignee disambiguation also appeared to be further along than those of most of the other presenters.