Tuesday 6 May 2008

Patent Quality

Day 2 of the LESI Conference in Chicago and I have spent part of the morning with OceanTomo (about which I shall blog separately). The afternoon's session included a fascinating talk about patent quality.

Christopher Ainsley of the the Patent Board reviewed their work on patent quality which seems to be mostly citation based. The Wall Street Journal has started publishing their patent scoreboard (as does the IAM magagzine). The thesis is that patents with a large number of forward citations are worth more than those with fewer citations when normalised across the industry.

Christopher pointed out patents in new technologies cannot be cited as often as technologies with a long history of patenting. They have developed the concepts of momentum patents which are those younger patents attracting a higher degree of interest.

Jonathan Barney of OceanTomo noted that their research on quality factors refelcted in higher prices in the OceanTomo auctions. In addition to citations, one of the quality factors is the renewal rate of the patents. He pointed out that the wacky patents granted over the past few years are often not renewed on payment of the first renewal fee.

During the ensuing discussion, criticism was made about forward citations being used as a quality factor. Both Christopher and Jonathan clarified that they broke their data out into Examiner citations and Applicant's citations (as Information Disclosure Statement). Both OceanTomo and the Patent Board stated that they also used data from outside of the United States (such as that from the EPO and WIPO). Christopher made the point that we need also to consider India and China in the future.

One of the main points that was made is that all of the tools on offer are using quantitative metrics rather than actually reading the claims and the specification. Christopher made the point that research showed that there is a correlation between the more subjective quality of the claims and the bibliometric approach. However, the point was made that the tools on offer are best used to pre-sort the patents. Ultimately a patent attorney is the best judge of the quality of the patent - her or his assessment may well depend on the current focus of the attorney.

No comments: