21st Century Constituent Self-Service
Way Better Patents was selected as one of the first 50 open data preview companies featured by opendata500.com. The Open Data 500 is the first comprehensive study of U.S. companies that use open government data to generate new business and develop new products and services. The Open Data 500 study is funded by the Knight Foundation and is being conducted by the GovLab.
Way Better Patents lives and breaths open data; patent data, US research grant and contract data, R&D funding data, university data, patent ownership and transfer data; and a host of other resources small and large. We use our deep understanding of the patent-relevant content and the meaning of the data to make information about patents easier to access, easier to understand, and easier to use. It's always interesting, frequently frustrating, and endlessly exhilarating when new knowledge comes out of our data crunching apparatus. We are pleased and humbled to be among such esteemed companies all of whom are making sense of the vast array of data created on behalf of the taxpayer and delivering new and innovative solutions to today's digital citizen.
Patents are the largest organized collection of scientific and technical information in the world. US patents remain the gold standard. A patent is essentially a disclosure compact. Inventors (and the companies they work for) exchange disclosing how their invention works or what it does for the exclusive right to practice it for 20 years after their application. But information asymmetry in the patent business is rampant. Patent information prowess on one side of the table, patent information poverty on the other. Way Better Patents is trying to fight this information poverty one application at a time.
Way Better Patents emerged from a desire to create a platform for constituent self-service on all matters pertaining to invention, patents, innovation, and who is doing what — constituent self-service for the 21st century. We aim to provide a resource for the broad constituency of business people, inventors, and investors who find themselves engaged (or entangled) with the patentsphere. This constituency frequently finds itself unable to understand even the most basic information about patents — when does a patent expire, who owns it, what does it cover, how to find the right person to discuss a license with.
What We've Been Up To
Way Better Patents launched in March 2013. During our first ten months we've accomplished a great deal — we found our voice, built weekly score cards and box scores to report on weekly patent activity, we built a repository of patent resources from our glossaries and primers to the Way Better Reading List of books and thought leadership on patents, intellectual property, and the knowledge economy. We've also engaged in some research of our own. We examined the USPTO Green Technology Pilot program to assess the impact of accelerated examination of "economically important" technology. This work gives policymakers a real world look at the outcomes of the type of programs contemplated in Section 25 of the America Invents Act. We worked with leading innovation economists to use public data to determine whether university patents are licensed over their enforceable lifecycle and at what point in time the licensing occurs.
2014 promises to be an exciting year too. In the Spring we will be releasing Coming Soon™, a set of digital digests spotlighting innovation by geography and how patents and other indicia of innovation contribute to economic, workforce, and community development. We continue our work analyzing patents that benefitted from taxpayer funding; and if and when they are licensed. All based on open data and all essential to enhancing understanding on the innovation economy.
A Win-Win Situation
What is the cost of open data? Making the data available on the internet where someone can grab it.
The open data applications support federal, state, and local government agencies by extending their resources without much incremental cost or budget impact to them. When agencies post data on the web, information product companies create compelling and engaging applications that answer questions, provide insight, and inform the public all at no or little cost to the agency. Agencies can focus on building the systems that support its mission. USPTO can build and support sysems to facilitate the prosecution of patent applications, the intricate process of deciding what is novel, useful and non-obvious. USPTO, like other agencies, has limited resources and formidable internal demands. (We'll save the speech about how USPTO needs to keep more of their fee money so they can streamline and speed up their processes for another day.) The agency gets public facing applications built using the best contemporary technology at no cost.
Open Data is Important
Science and technology policy makers, business people, innovators, and the public and private investors need more access to usable information. There is a lot to learn from patents — the impact of the convergence of science and technology, where imporant innovations are emerging, how inventors are collaborating, if taxpayers receive a return on their investment in R&D in the form of commercializing discoveries. When all government data is open data it will lead to a more engaged citizenry and a deeper understanding of the complex issues facing our innovation economy and its knowledge-based infrastructure.
GovLab's work in identifying the Open Data 500 will shed light on the innovative tools for delivering information to today's self-directed digital citizen. Their work and the work of organizations like the Data Transparency Coalition and the Sunlight Foundation that provide forums for Open Data activists and enthusiasts to collaborate and share ideas will help create a more enformed community and an improved discourse on how our democracy works. We look forward to learning what the researchers at GovLab discover.