FUJITSU ANNOUNCES LAUNCH OF PATENT STRATEGY SUPPORT SERVICE: I picked up this announcement from Nihon Keizai Shimbun (posted on blackenterprise.com) claiming that Fujitsu is releasing software capable of recognizing the field and nature of a patent by analyzing its digitized text, while also listing key patents that are often cited in research and development projects.
The service to list patents in certain fields starts at 1 million yen (about $900) per search, the report said, adding Fujitsu will also offer a more comprehensive service that includes information on competitors' research and development activities and evaluations of their patents. The overall idea, as far as I can tell from the skimpy press releases, is to create a centralized toolkit to allow companies to quickly map patents in a particular technological field.
Patent mapping and analysis software is the next important development in patent services, as it has been very time consuming for practitioners to obtain a comprehensive overview of patenting activity in a technological area. However, most of the previous products have been (a) expensive, or (b) not explained very well to the general public. Internal company databases have been heralded as being efficient and reasonably comprehensive, but there has been scant discussion in the patent community over which ones are exceptional enough for wide adoption (see, e.g., this article on Cisco's internal database that is coordinated with all outside counsel that do Cisco's patent work).
Also, many of the more enterprising practitioners and service providers have already taken matters into their own hands by creating RSS feeds to USPTO databases, allowing people to get real-time patenting activity as it is published by the USPTO. One example is Freshpatents.com (discussed here on Steven Nipper's Invent Blog). Others, such as Matt Buchanan, have generously pointed out scripts that can be used to get RSS feeds from the USPTO. The USPTO itself has even made overtures to providing such RSS services in the future.
I think that many of the institutional patent holders have plenty of existing resources that could help the public obtain patent information more quickly and effectively - I just wish this information would be more freely disseminated without having to dig through multiple layers of links and articles.