Published in World IP Review
“It’s like Google, only specialised for IP ‘big data’,” says Thomas Haines, founder and CEO of Practice Insight, who talks about how he has made it possible to transform a heavy load of IP information into simple, digestible, accurate and useful data—all at the tap of a finger on a smartphone.
Haines explains that in the context of patent information, IP professionals are now able to draw data out of billions of pages of information across the world in different languages, in a hosted environment and in a very small amount of time.
“We can identify links between, for example, a patent written in English, which might have been drafted in Arizona, and one written in Mandarin from a company in Beijing,” Haines adds.
When asked to describe big data, Haines says that “it’s the power of analysing a lot of data within seconds, with what previously might have taken several hours.”
Patent information is an example of a big dataset. “It’s so large that you can’t interact with it as you might with a traditional database,” he explains. He adds that more advanced firms are starting to use the data to research potential new clients, understand their competitors, and even identify opportunities and threats for their clients.
He stresses that this form of technology is not only about speed, but also about gaining access to new types of information from the dataset.
“The primary use of the patent dataset for patent firms is to conduct a priority search,” he says. For example, this can be looking for a certain technology or assessing the novelty of an invention.
“We’re taking the dataset and putting it into new uses to an extent where it now can do what previously was difficult to achieve.” He says of the benefits: “We have observed that the firms which are adopting these types of technologies have grown much faster than others.”
Haines describes IP professionals as having “a healthy dose of scepticism” when it comes to adapting to newer, more efficient technologies. He gives an example of the transitions that senior patent attorneys have had to go through in the past decades: “Senior attorneys can probably remember the move from index cards to electronic databases. They may also remember the transition to email from writing formal letters. In these transitions, it has never been heard that patent attorneys want to abandon digitised ways or working.”
He compares this to the adoption of a dataset and refers to it as a “logical progression”. As big data technologies help to get things done more efficiently, Haines says that existing systems might become unnecessary or superseded. For this reason, there is the challenge of adapting and changing legacy systems in order to take advantage of the new opportunities.
The products which have been created by Practice Insight specifically for IP professionals include Licensing Alert and Filing Analytics.
Practice Insight has been working with multiple firms to integrate the systems into their workflow. One of the many things Licensing Alert (now Citation Eagle) can do is identify licensing opportunities in a way that is quicker and more accurate than previously.
Haines comments: “This gives an opportunity to grow new markets for patent attorneys in particular by starting to be able to identify licensing opportunities for clients. They can provide greater value to that client beyond the prosecution phase of the patent.”
This product will be useful in more places than just in the hands of patent attorneys, he says. “For those in litigation or mergers and acquisitions, we can use the same type of data searches to identify potential infringements and potential threats for companies that are moving into a similar technology space. “Filing Analytics is becoming the typical tool for IP firms,”
Haines explains. With this technology, IP firms can see what local patent firms and corporations are filing, what technology they are using, and who their clients are. It can also inform what competitor firms are doing and what strategies they are putting into place for their clients from a jurisdictional point of view.
Haines says. “If it’s an IP firm that works directly with foreign corporations, we can see which competitors are currently using what technology. All the international portfolios of overseas associates can also be seen, including what is sent and received.”
He adds: “If an IP firm wants to select an overseas partner firm to work with, they can find one that has a similar scale and ability. Here the IP firm will also be able to see what the overseas firm files, what sort of relationships it has in that country, who they work for, what technology, and where they send it.” With these technologies, IP professionals will spend more time winning business and serving existing clients, and less time extracting massive datasets from various websites.
Haines relays a personal experience at the most recent International Trademark Association conference in Orlando in May: “I was talking to a patent attorney and he was on his way to visit an overseas associate to determine whether they could be a good fit as partner “Within 20 seconds using our system on his mobile phone he had all the data he needed about that potential partner, and what it showed him was actually that they were a very poor fit in terms of scale and capability for what he needed. So he discovered the trip would have been a complete waste of time.” The patent attorney was then able to identify, within the geographical region, who would be more capable and a better match as a partner. “He met with them instead. So it definitely saves time and effort,” he adds.
Haines explains how Licensing Alert is currently at the very beginning of its lifecycle and how larger institutions spend millions on IP portfolios but with very little in tangible return. Practice Insight is working closely with some of them to “uncover that hidden value in IP”. “Getting data and turning it into something useful is not easy,” Haines says of his inventions. “Many organisations have tried to do what we’ve done and I think at best they’ve only been partially successful.” Haines comes from a mixed background, having experience as a software engineer and as a lawyer and patent attorney.
“I have worked with some very talented people at Apple and Microsoft, and I then practised as a lawyer and qualified as a barrister. As a patent attorney I built a new firm from ground zero in partnership with other patent attorneys.” He adds: “That’s given me a real world understanding of the typical data practice of a patent attorney and I think it’s made it easier for me to grasp how technologies similar to those of Google and Amazon can be applied to solve problems of patent professionals.” Although the process of creating the products mentioned was not easy, Haines discusses the simplicity behind the idea of them. “What I’ve tried to do is simply take the best software engineering techniques available from computing and adapt them to the needs of patent attorneys and their clients.” He adds: “In a sense we’ve just created the IP industry’s Google.” With the development of these ‘Googlelike’ technologies, Practice Insight is striving to successfully deliver what its company’s engineering philosophy has been: “building software that makes people’s lives easier”—in this case, IP and law professionals.
Today many of the world’s leading corporations and law firms benefit from Practice Insight and Filing Analytics, as they help to process big data. The technologies give access to analysis on a high and proficient level, from which users can extract the data they need in just a few minutes. The reports come in user-friendly formats and can be used to make informed decisions with increased efficiency, in a short amount of time and for lower cost, all designed to make life easier.