US patent office embraces big data


For inventors and companies getting a patent or trademark the process can be long and difficult. Patent applications have their own language, and both users and application reviewers alike have to figure out if that language was correctly applied. In all, the average patent application can take four years to be approved or longer for more complex issues. Big companies, and their equally large legal teams, have streamlined this process, but most others – including the federal workers processing these applications have been left out.

Now, MarkLogic, an a NoSQL database provider specializing in XML data services, is working with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in an effort to make applications easier to complete, and make the review process easier to do. XML is one way to render different types of information like word documents, PDFs, and images into a central database and present the information back to users. Previously, if an individual or company wanted to apply for a patent or trademark, they had to look through paper manuals and applications to understand how to present their unique inventions for review.

MarkLogic has put at least some of that process online with the Reference Document Management Service (RDMS) they built for USPTO. The big data application enables real-time search of the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) and the Trademark Manual of Examination Procedures (TMEP).

RDMS gives information on procedures, classifications and regulations needed by inventors. The RDMS is also used by USPTO patent examiners in expediting the patent/trademark examination process, ensuring that inventors and researchers are utilizing the most up-to-date information possible.

“The patent office is trying to make patents more accessible, there is a large backlog of people applying, and a lot of that is because of the process,” explains Rick Miller, Director Federal, State & Local for MarkLogic in an interview with CivSource. “The key benefit to putting manuals online for patent applicants, is so they can learn if their application is patentable before going through the whole process.”

MarkLogic is also working with patent examiners on the backend to refine business processes and get a better handle on the data before them. “There was a large business process component to this, the patent office didn’t want to just move over the paper process, but to streamline and take advantages of referencing, and cross checking data.”

RDMS is part of a bigger move within USPTO to embrace big data and get a better understanding of not only applications, but existing patent and trademark information. USPTO is currently working through business process and data handling issues in other parts of the agency. MarkLogic provides the MarkLogicâ Enterprise NoSQL database, to USPTO which allows them to render all of their different document types through XML and build applications like RDMS over the top to make the data usable.

“The patent office is an XML organization, so this is going to be a go forward relationship for us with the patent office. We think XML offers the best way to render all of the different data they have easily,” Miller says.

According to Miller, making RDMS easy and intuitive for users was critical. “I think ‘Big Data’ is really just a term for the IT industry. Workers and users just want to get a better handle on all of the data they need to do their job better. They don’t call it big data, they just want it to work.”

RDMS is now available for users on the patent office website