I just wanted to pop in today to highlight a fascinating discussion that is going on in the Intellogist discussion forum. Our users are discussing the legal implications of using a third party vendor to conduct patent searching. Specifically, they are discussing who might be looking at your search strings from the other side of the search engine.
What follows is an excerpt from the discussion forum conversation:
User TooMuchJunk: Has anyone compiled information on the various tools regarding search confidentiality? Do we have any idea if search data is repackaged and sold or otherwise used for competitive advantage?
User Insomniac: Ian Cockburn wrote an article a couple of years ago regarding confidentiality of searches on Google etc because its the search strings are captured and can be viewed by the general public and thereby potentially destroying novelty. I’m not sure where it was published, maybe through WIPO.
User Insomniac: Further to my last effort http://www.wipo.int/sme/en/documents/patent_searching.htm
User TooMuchJunk: Interesting article. Thanks. It is curious that only the risk of “over the wire” “in the clear” search strings are associated with a risk of public disclosure that thereby invalidates the potential work. This reasoning would seem to equally apply to any search tool provider than has no NDA or legal contract/agreement to keep the data (the search string) in confidence.
Note the following text in the Thomson Innovation report from this site [Intellogist]: “Thomson Reuters asserts that it will never ‘mine’ search data to discover trends, and that it collects the minimal information needed to accurately bill customers for their usage.”
This certainly doesn’t measure up to the standard of attorney-client privilege, and most certainly does not represent the equivalent of an NDA. Of note is the fact that there is no apparent restriction on other uses of the data that would put the intellectual property at risk. On the other hand, it is much more than is recorded in the “security” section of the other reports for the other tools.
In short, it seems that the very use of these tools creates a substantial risk — more so if the vendors don’t make at least the effort claimed by Thomson.
User TooMuchJunk: From: http://www.minesoft.com/privacy.asp
Minesoft wants to protect its clients’ privacy and will use best efforts to keep confidential the contents of any searches conducted. When using products, information is captured on the server relating to use of the search engine but no attempt is made to systematically monitor individual users or IP addresses, or the actions they perform. Minesoft websites contain links to other websites operated by third parties, for which Minesoft cannot be held responsible. A secure search (encrypted) option is offered.
User KWhitman: Hello all,
I just wanted to add to this conversation that the Intellogist Reports do contain the Security section where Intellogist editors can put any available information about security concerns. However, for this section we have historically looked in the help files and available product materials, but we have not necessarily asked vendor representatives to comment in-depth on whether they have a policy on data-mining (instead we have focused more on security from third-party monitoring, which is why we always include the note about SSL connections when available). It is possible that more information about each of these systems could be gleaned by asking vendor representatives to comment on this particular aspect, and perhaps there is language in the official contract between purchaser and vendor that can be signed.
TooMuchJunk, thank you so much for finding the additional language on the Minesoft website!! That’s quite valuable.
To check out the conversation, see the Confidentiality of Searches thread. Have something to add? Log in and post to share your input. Or, if you’re not yet an Intellogist user, fill out our very short free registration form (it really just takes a moment!) to register and contribute to the discussion.
This post was contributed by Intellogist team member Kristin Whitman.