Friday, January 13, 2006

TROUBLE AHEAD FOR THE "PATENT QUALITY INDEX?" As many are aware, part of the new USPTO initiative will involve the use of a patent quality index to determine an objective quality of a patent. The methodology for the index is being developed by professor R. Polk Wagner from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. A general explanation of the index is provided here.

According to the explanation, the methodology relies on "objective, accessible data for describing patent quality." When defining the index, the described method first selects and refines index factors (e.g., patent complexity, prosecution activity). These index factors are then "tested" against a number of other factors:

- regression against valid / invalid patents

- regression against allowed / abandoned patents

- regression against human-based evaluations

After an initial round of testing, the factor tests are then repeated and refined to get a final value.

Enter U.S. Patent 6,556,992 (issued to PatentRatings LLC April 29, 2003):

1. A computer-automated method for rating or ranking patents or other intangible
assets comprising:

selecting a first population of patents having a first quality or characteristic;

selecting a second population of patents having a second quality or characteristic that is different from or assumed to be different from said first quality or characteristic;

providing a computer-accessible database of selected patent metrics representative of or describing particular corresponding characteristics of each said patents in said
first and second patent populations;

constructing a computer regression model based on said selected patent metrics, said regression model being operable to input said selected patent metrics for each said patent in said first and second patent populations and to output a corresponding rating or ranking that is generally predictive of the presence or absence of said first and/or second quality in said first and second patent populations according to a determined statistical accuracy; and

using said regression model to rate or rank one or more patents in a third patent population by inputting into said regression model selected patent metrics representative of or describing corresponding characteristics of said one or more patents in said third population to be rated or ranked and causing said regression model to output a corresponding rating or ranking based thereon.

Since the patent was issued, PatentRatings LLC has become a part of Ocean Tomo, which is an admitted patent holding company (although there is no record of the patents being assigned to Ocean Tomo yet). While Ocean Tomo specializes more in auctioning intellectual property rather than enforcing it, it appears that the ratings index used by Ocean Tomo is a core technology for the company. You can bet that they will be closely watching this development with the USPTO.

Also, after a quick search, there also appear to be at least 2 other published applications that deal with patent quality:

20040220842 - Method and system for rating patents and other intangible assets; and

20030191780 - Computer system and method for the search statistical evaluation and analysis of documents.

While these applications haven't issued yet, it is still possible for the applicants to "tweak" their claims to cover professor Wagner's work.

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