The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has been in the business of “open data” since the very beginning of the agency’s history, when President Washington signed the First Patent Act into law in 1790. But while this information was always “open” in the sense that issued patents were available to the public, it wasn’t necessarily accessible. Now, in the USPTO Innovation Lab (pictured), the USPTO’s Open Data and Mobility program is providing new platforms and sustainable ways to find, use, and manipulate data.
Historically, intellectual property (IP) information was found by searching through extensive paper records. In fact, the USPTO’s stacks of patents were filed in what were called “shoes,” which according to lore refers to Thomas Jefferson using shoe boxes to store patent applications, when he served as Secretary of State and our nation’s first patent examiner.
Today, the USPTO has a mountain of scientific knowledge in the millions of patent applications the agency receives. This is no accident—it’s part of the fundamental bargain in the Progress Clause of our Constitution. In exchange for disclosing an invention to the public—including what it is and how it works—the inventor gets exclusive rights for a limited period of time.
The administration has taken many important steps towards making government data accessible with the Presidential Memorandum on “Building a 21st Century Digital Government” and to providing better digital services to the American people with the development of a comprehensive digital government strategy. The USPTO is delivering on this call, and just in the last year, addressed a White House Executive Action to improve transparency of ownership of patents with new, award winning tools. Assignment Search makes it simpler for the public to locate patent assignment information using a modernized interface that provides more searchable fields and the ability to easily filter and narrow the results. The popular new web tool, PatentsView, highlighted in a Commerce blog, explores nearly 40 years of research data on patenting activity with visualization tools that leverage application programming interfaces (APIs) and utilize disambiguation algorithms.;