Remarks by Deputy Director Russell Slifer at PatentsView Inventor Disambiguation Workshop

PatentsView Inventor Disambiguation Workshop

Deputy Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Russell Slifer 

Opening Remarks

September 24, 2015, 9:00 a.m.

Thank you, Alan, for that kind introduction.  Good morning, everyone! On behalf of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, it is my pleasure and privilege to welcome all of you here and on the webcast to this exciting workshop. It’s great to see such a diverse group of researchers, science and innovation funders, and data users—a broad cross-section of the public—to engage in our brand-new open data initiative, a part of which includes PatentsView. This amazing prototype web tool is the culmination of a journey that in many ways dates back to the first full day of the Obama administration, January 21st, 2009. On that day the president issued a Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, with the goal of making government information more available.

We have a lot of information here at the USPTO, and our first Chief Economist, Stuart Graham, sat down with his team to brainstorm on new ways to get that information to the public. What we now refer to as “PatentsView” resulted from one of those brainstorms. In 2012, the USPTO entered into a collaborative effort with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Center for the Science of Science and Innovation Policy, and the University of California at Berkeley. The USPTO was then able to bring PatentsView to life through collaboration with the American Institutes of Research.  

This project has evolved with one guiding principle— to empower not just innovators, but also business decision and policy makers with a level playing field through the “democratization of data.” So it’s worth noting that we have been creating data at the USPTO for more than 225 years. Traditionally, we’ve made our public patent and trademark data available only in bulk form. In other words, the work of parsing that data fell to whoever was willing to dive into those databases and use analytical tools to parse out information of use to them. Naturally, this meant that only a narrow subset of the public could really make much use of this data.  And bulk format data also lacks something critical: We don’t receive user input that can help us improve on data dissemination.   But we’ve changed the game with PatentsView, and with this event.

With your critical input, we can more effectively meet the needs of our global innovation community, whose members come from anywhere and everywhere. As America’s Innovation Agency, the USPTO is the public steward of a tremendous treasure trove of data of great value to present and future innovators, business leaders and policy makers. And PatentsView is just one component of a much broader agency-wide open data initiative. We seek to improve the discoverability, accessibility, and usability of the USPTO’s valuable patent and trademark information.

But we’re here today to focus on PatentsView, a user-friendly prototype that allows users to easily explore nearly 40 years of critical USPTO patent data. With just a few clicks, the user can see—through charts and maps—links and connections across technologies, geography, and time. It’s built on an unprecedented database that links inventors, their organizations, locations, and overall patenting activity.  The platform enables users to learn about the patent history and impact of particular innovators, explore the networks and teams of inventors, and analyze the volume and distribution of technologies by geographic region.  Additionally, PatentsView’s data visualization tool, query tool, and flexible API enable a broad spectrum of users to not only examine the patenting activity over time and geographic regions, but also more easily explore patented technologies, assignees, citation patterns, and co-inventor networks.

I’ve seen the value of data throughout my career, from my work as an electrical engineer and computer scientist in artificial intelligence to my second career as an intellectual property attorney. During my time at Google, we grew from a modest-sized domestically focused company to a multinational corporation.  It’s fair to say that acquiring and making use of data was critical to the company’s growth. Our goal is that PatentsView can have a similar impact. This tool can help budding inventors gain a better sense of the patent landscape in their respective fields.  It can help policymakers gain a better understanding of innovation in their own backyards.  It can help business leaders make better-informed business decisions. And, it can help anyone curious about patents and innovation gain a better sense of the level and distribution of activity in various technology areas and geographic regions. Better data leads to better decision-making. It’s as simple as that.  But PatentsView is still a prototype, a beta site ready to grow and improve. Going forward, we want to do even more to make patent information even more transparent and accessible.  That’s why events like today’s workshop are so important.

I’d like to conclude by congratulating Alan Marco, Amanda Myers, and their colleagues in the Office of Chief Economist for their great work in making PatentsView possible. I’d also like to thank Julia Lane from New York University and Lee Fleming from the University of California at Berkeley.  Julia and Lee were the initial lead researchers on PatentsView, and their contributions to this project have been immeasurable.

We are delighted to have Julia and Lee here with us today, and you’ll get to hear from Julia this afternoon when she participates on the Open Data and Data Science for Government panel.  I would also like to acknowledge the important contributions made to this effort by Rebecca Rosen and Evgeny Klochikhin (pronounced: “ev-GEN-ee  Kloch-eh-kin”), the main project managers from the American Institutes for Research.  From managing the day-to-day work that moved PatentsView from concept to prototype to operational tool, to preparing for the implementation of today’s workshop, Rebecca and Evgeny have been invaluable to the entire PatentsView effort.

And last, but not least, I’d like to thank all of you. I am honored that the USPTO can offer such an appropriate venue for this unique gathering, and I wish you all a successful workshop!


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