What do NPEs, international standards of practice, semantic searching and a visual gallery of weird cereals have in common?
They were all topics of discussion when I attended the 2015 Patent Information Users Group conference, an annual event that brings together patent information users, patent information service professionals and information vendors.
The 2015 conference ran from May 2 to May 7 and was held in Lombard, IL, just outside of Chicago. On May 1, PIUG members also had the opportunity to participate in the very first North American USPTO-EPO CPC Annual Meeting and Workshop, and the very first to be held in conjunction with PIUG’s own annual meeting. It was the second annual meeting with industry users, and was jointly arranged by the USPTO and EPO to solicit feedback on the Cooperative Patent Classification classification system, which has now replaced both the European Patent Office’s ECLA and the United States’ USPC systems.
The conference is an ideal venue for discussing issues, exploring new technologies, and sharing case studies and best practices, given the diversity of its attendees and the breadth of their experience and expertise.
While many of our attendees are North American, a good proportion of our 2015 delegates were from countries such as Japan, India, Australia, China, Israel, Great Britain, Switzerland, France and Sweden. Many attendees were from academia, law and government with independent search firms and industry searchers also well-represented. LexisNexis IP representatives were there, as were representatives from several other major patent information providers.
Conference Highlight: Keynote Presentation by Ray Niro
The first full day of plenary sessions began on May 4, opening with a keynote presentation by Ray Niro, the well-known patent litigator who inspired the first use of the phrase “patent troll.” Mr. Niro’s firm has been the subject of some recent controversy in the legal world, but this only seemed to add to his appeal and intrigue as a keynote speaker.
In his presentation, “Patent Trolls—the Myth and Reality,” Niro argued that powerful corporate interest groups have cast small business owners and inventors as the “bad guys” in a narrative that hurts innovators and small inventors. Niro suggested that patent information professionals have a role to play by helping to improve the quality of the patents that emerge from prosecution.
Conference Highlights: Patent Information in a Business Context
This year’s conference had several sessions focusing the use of patent information in a business context beyond the actual prosecution or litigation of patents.
Some highlights included:
- Heather Simmons of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, (in cooperation with Diana Koppang of Neal, Gerber, & Eisenberg) presented on strategies and tactics for searching and using patent information for competitive intelligence, as well as methods to present patent information in ways that increase its salience to business decision makers.
- Sara Peters and Susan Hayes-Jacobson spoke about their success at General Mills with a program that increased R&D staff’s awareness and interest in their competitors’ intellectual property activities. Peters and Jacobsen noted that using consistent layouts and visual summaries—including photo galleries of weird new cereals on the market—were helpful ways of increasing engagement with intellectual property information.
- Jane List of Extract Information Ltd., an independent consulting firm, gave a detailed account of how she uses patent information in technology scouting, identifying possible candidates for technology acquisition, licensing or partnerships with her clients.
- Diana Koppang of Neal, Gerber, & Eisenberg (with input from Heather Simmons) on using patent information in conjunction with other sources of competitive information to create powerful overviews of technology areas and their players, relationships and possible future directions.
Conference Highlights: Programs for Patent Information Searching Skills and Setting Standards for Practice
A number of presentations this year would have been of interest to anyone involved in education or training of patent information users, or in the selection of patent information service providers.
- Karen Deak of Notre Dame University, George Pike of Northwestern University, Jonathan Masur of the University of Chicago and Heather Simmons of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign participated in a moderated question-and-answer panel. The discussion focused on the panel’s insights with regards to their challenges and successes in teaching effective patent information search skills.
- Susanne Hantos of Davies Collison Cave gave PIUG members an update on the development of a certification program and accompanying infrastructure for the education of patent information professionals.
- Izumi Tsuzuki of the HIT Service Institute and Sakae Nakamura of Asahi Kasei gave a joint presentation on Japan’s Patent Search Grand Prix, an annual patent searching contest that functions to both educate and raise awareness of patent information searching as a realm of professional expertise.
- Roland Feinäugle of the European Patent Office provided insights on providing patent education to distance learners.
Conference Highlights: Patent Analysis as a Tool for Decision Making for Business and Public Policy
- Alica Daly of IP Australia spoke about IP Australia’s innovative use of patent analytics to help inform policy decisions with respect to key Australian industries.
- Vanessa Peña of the IDA Science and Technology Policy Institute reported on efforts to use patent analytics untangle the effects of federal funding on the development of the 3D printing industry.
In addition to the highlights noted above, PIUG 2015 also featured additional sessions on patent valuation, citation analyses and Inter Partes Review, freedom to operate searches, patent landscaping and taxonomy development, and the nuances of international patent information resources.
The conference also featured technology updates from vendors, and common themes seemed to include an emphasis on the utility of semantic search technologies as well as methods for integrating information from a wide variety of sources into common dashboards or displays.
For more information about PIUG’s 2015 conference, check out the full conference program on the association’s website. PIUG members can also view the slide decks from the plenary sessions on the PIUG wiki.