At Cambia, to create the Patent Lens (www.patentlens.net) we’ve probably spent USD 300,000 or more over the years to acquire and serve to the public the full text and images of US Patents and Applications. This is a pretty heavy load for a small non-profit, but through commitment by our supporters, we’ve managed.
When the Open Government Directive was announced in the current administration, I was hopeful that the US Patent and Trademark Office would begin to make its bulk patent data available at no cost, and as well, create a way for the public to access the important ancillary data relating to status and prosecution history, called ‘PAIR’.
When USPTO announced the unusual partnership with Google to do just that, I was both pleased and a bit nervous that this was creating a cozy relationship with one big player in the information space, reminiscent of the relationships that EPO has had with ‘added value’ information gatekeepers. I was also a bit skeptical that it would work and would deliver.
What happened in the last months since Jon Orwant at Google began hosting the bulk data was remarkable. But it was incomplete. The most valuable information (financially and often technically) is the most recent set of documents – the applications and grants published this year – and ideally this minute. And these were lacking. Until a couple of weeks ago, there was essentially no 2010 data on the Google bulk site.
I was concerned by this, and spent some serious time and bandwidth in conversations and emails with people in the Government and at Google, and in the last couple of weeks, the responsiveness of the USPTO, Google, the Commerce Department and the Office of Science & Technology Policy has been nothing short of spectacular. In fact, the whole experience made me realize that ‘Open Government’ is a passion and a mission to many of its practitioners in Washington and Virginia, and that there are some real heroes in the system who should get recognition.
In short, they made very courageous decision to provide to the public the highest margin data that they currently sell, at no cost, and on time. And then they actually did it. http://www.google.com/googlebooks/uspto-patents.html