WIPO Addresses Rapid Rise In Patent Information Use 19/03/2007 by Tove Iren S. Gerhardsen for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)By Tove Iren S. Gerhardsen The use of an online, searchable patent-information system run by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has tripled in the past 12 months, according to WIPO. But a recent colloquium on the topic showed that patent information is still an untapped resource that could be better utilised, and WIPO is planning to step up training for developing countries in this area, officials said. “Patent information is actively used in businesses around the world and we have regular contact with specialised users at conferences and so on,” WIPO Deputy Director General Francis Gurry told Intellectual Property Watch. “We have no direct contact with the anonymous public users, but we do know, for example, that use of our PatentScope service has tripled in the last 12 months.” PatentScope is WIPO’s online database. In his opening remarks of the 14 March WIPO colloquium on “technology and policy information available in the patent system,” Gurry said that patent information is “sometimes neglected” and not given the attention that some say it should. There is an equilibrium between monopoly property rights and public disclosure, William Meredith, head of the Patent Information and IP Statistics Section PCT and Patents, Arbitration and Mediation Center and Global Intellectual Property Issues at WIPO, said in his presentation. “The economic purpose of disclosure is to balance the potential inefficiencies of monopoly.” “Patents are territorial, but disclosure is global,” he said. According to the European Patent Office, “Patent information is the name for the technical information found in patent documents, plus any legal information about them.” Wolfgang Pilch, principal director for patent information and head of the European Patent Sub-Office in Vienna, said that the information has to be understood by an average technical expert, who “knows everything” but is not an entrepreneur. This, as well as information such as where a patent has been filed and where it has expired, is available in PatentScope. It is a service under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), under which a filer obtains patent protection in all member countries without having to file separately in each. A PCT yearly review will be published in May, containing some patent information and statistics topics, but it is primarily a status report on the international patent system, WIPO said. All of this information is now available free online, but the meeting showed that many still find it difficult to use. Brazil for example, asked WIPO whether it would be possible for a country to request a specific report on patent scope, for example, on Brazil’s technological development. Gurry replied that what WIPO should do on patent information remains an open question, but at the moment it is a “resource-limited area.” WIPO is able to provide the raw data and provide as many tools on the site as possible to ease the search and make it easier for countries to use the information, including multilingual searches and improvement of the presentation of results such as graphics. WIPO also can communicate “to as many as possible” the value of this information, he said, but emphasised that it was not WIPO’s role to operate among the commercial vendors of patent information. Gurry later said, “At the moment, it would certainly be possible to commission a report on a particular topic and to prepare such a report for a requesting government. In our answer to the question [at the meeting], we pointed out that our resources would be too limited to handle a large volume of such requests at the moment and that we were considering ways of making access to similar information more efficient.” As for the public’s use of patent information, there also seems to be more potential. “The public’s use of the information is still indirect and limited and doesn’t seem to take advantage of the freely available information disclosed by WIPO and other offices,” Gurry said. Developing Countries’ Use WIPO said that it is training developing countries in using patent information and is currently planning to develop training materials. “Proposals will be made for the program and budget for 2008/09,” Gurry said. Developing countries could use patent information to find out in which countries or regions a certain technology has not been patented – or where a patent has expired, according to the meeting. Pilch said that this could help companies find out which technology they could use for free, and whether the information could be used to develop a new product. He added that this information is “available at your fingertips, directly from home,” provided one has Internet connection. A Brazilian official said patent information could have bearing on several proposals under the emerging Development Agenda at WIPO that focus on impact assessment and access to information. He asked how this information could be better used by, for example, finding out the relevance of IP in the developing world. Gurry said this was a “fertile” area to pursue and that some of this WIPO does now. Pilch emphasised that a patent only gives a right to block others from doing or using something, it never gives a right to do anything. As for the EPO, its patent information is available in English and Spanish (automatic translation) and soon in French, an issue linked to the controversial London Protocol (Agreement) on providing EU translations on patent applications, which some argue will increase costs. Meredith said that one could subscribe to RSS notifications about developments in certain patent fields. He said that technology is cyclical and by using available patent information and statistics, it is possible for businesses of all sizes, including those in developing countries, to identify which areas are seeing a lot of activity. For example, the European Union has in its Lisbon Agenda decided to become the most innovative region in the world by 2010, and by studying patent information, it is possible to study innovation in the EU, Meredith said. Examples of such analysis might be determining resident patent applications in a country per research and development expenditure, or on which technology a particular country is concentrating, he said. Meredith said that among the benefits of patent analysis are: to reduce costs, reduce risk, improve productivity and increase revenue. He said that we are at a “very early stage of development” when it comes to the use of patent data, and that there is a big potential for developing standards. Next Colloquium in June This was the fourth colloquium spanning 2006 and 2007 on selected patent issues, and the number of attendees was lower at this one than others. The next on national strategies for innovation and technology transfer is scheduled for 18 June, WIPO said. Tove Gerhardsen may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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