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In a previous post, we discussed free patent search sites that allowed users to browse and view the full text of US patents and applications. While reading Information Sources in Patents (2nd edition) by Stephen Adams (listed under “Recommended” in the left side bar of the blog), I learned about another free service related to US patent documents. According to Adams, “in the United States, due to the free availability of US patent data, an entire cottage industry of ‘alert providers’ has grown in recent years” (168). I know that alert services for recently published patent applications and granted patents (via RSS or email) are available for most subscription databases. Even some free search systems by national or regional patent authorities, like espacenet, allow users to create alerts for certain classes or keyword searches. I had heard of an alerting service by a free patent search site, SumoBrain, but this feature was only a small part of the entire search system.
I was curious about these free, commercially produced alert services for US patent documents. Were they worth using? After all, according to Landon IP librarian Kristin Whitman, “alerting services are only as good as the timeliness and comprehensiveness of their coverage.” Read on to discover the positive and negative aspects of two free patent alert services for US patent documents!
- What is it?: FreshPatents is a free tracking service for recently published US patent applications. Unregistered users can search for patents applications organized under browsable lists of Inventors, Industry, Agents, and Location. Unregistered users can also view the documents on the FreshPatents website or download a limited number of PDFs. Users must be registered, however, to create email alerts or RSS alerts for specific keyword searches. Registered users can also save and organize selected patent applications and download unlimited PDFs.
- Features: FreshPatents allows registered users to monitor up to 20 keyword searches and receive “keyword report digests (summary of matches)” once a week. The system searches the following fields within recently published US patent applications: “Title, Abstract, Inventor Name, Agent Name and Location (Agent/Inventor).” Users can also create custom RSS feeds of keyword searches within the FreshPatents website or subscribe to RSS feeds for patent applications by specific companies. (It should be noted that US patent applications often are published without assignees, so users should recognize the incomplete coverage of these RSS feeds. According to Kristin Whitman, “there are other data products out there that exist specifically to predict the probable assignee of a US application, including Innography and IFI Claims.”) When a user selects a patent application to view on the site, they can read the bibliographic information and full description from the document. They can also choose to download a PDF version of the original document or save the document to their personal organizer. Within the organizer, available only to registered users, selected documents can be given tags or ratings and organized into specific folders.
- Pros: Users can craft their own searches for the alert service, all services on the site (including alerts, browsable lists, downloads, and organizers) are completely free, users can save and organize relevant results, and users can download the PDF versions of any application.
- Cons: It is difficult to locate the available RSS feeds, since the RSS function isn’t listed in the main menu at the top of each page. Users can’t subscribe to alerts for predefined subject categories. Google Ads are prevalent on every page of the site and become very distracting in the full record view. The site only monitors published patent applications, not issued US patents. Finally, no search forms are available for searching all US patent documents through this service, although a Google Custom Search form is available for searching keywords on the site.
- What is it?: Patent Alert is a service that allows registered users to receive “weekly, bi-weekly or monthly” updates via email about newly issued US patents in a specific subject area. 40 different patent alert subject areas are available for free (with registration), and users can subscribe to multiple subject areas. Users can also pay a monthly fee to use the expert service, where they can choose from a much wider variety of topics, create their own searches for the updates, and receive alerts on published patent applications along with the issued patents.
- Features: Users can subscribe for free to up to 40 different subject area updates (full list available here). According to its FAQ section, Patent Alert lists patents issued since the last emailed update (periods of about 7, 14, or 28 days, depending on your choice of update). If no new patents are available for that subject, users have the option to view older subject-related patents in their updates. Each update can contain summaries of up to 21 patents, and the postings contain links to the full text of the patent documents at the USPTO website. Patent Alert also allows users to search the USPTO Patent Full-Text and Image Database through a command line interface form available under the “Search” option in the main menu. Results for these searches appear directly in the USPTO database.
- Pros: This service allows users to choose broad predefined subject areas to follow, and users can follow multiple subject areas at one time for free. The service also allows users to search the USPTO database directly from the Patent Alert website. For a monthly fee, users can follow both issued US patents and published patent applications, follow a broader range of subjects, and even craft their own search for the updates.
- Cons: The main drawback of this service is the monthly fee to access the expert service. The free service limits the user to choosing from only 40 subject areas, while expert service users can craft their own search, choose from hundreds of update topics to follow, or even base their updates on specific classes or subclasses of the US Patent Classification system. The 40 free subject areas aren’t based on the US Patent Classification system, so users can’t identify which classes or subclasses are searched to compile the updates. Free users only are alerted about newly issued US patents, not US published applications. This service doesn’t allow users to store or organize relevant patents found through the updates.
Are They Useful?
These free patent alert services each lack coverage of important US patent documents. FreshPatents only monitors published US applications, while the free version of Patent Alert only monitors issued US patents. These services can be used simultaneously to monitor both issued US patents and published US applications, but many new relevant documents can be overlooked because the number of documents included in each update for both sites is limited. These free alert services are best used as current awareness tools, to help patent professionals stay up-to-date on the general trends in certain fields. Patent searchers should use these free tools along with other free and subscription alert services from a wide range of domestic and international databases to monitor both US patent documents and international patent documents. Patent professionals can also monitor news releases, journal articles, and even blog posts to learn about new innovations before they are even published as patent applications.
What types of patent alert services do you use? Do you prefer free alert systems or the alert services included with subscription databases? Let us know in the comments!
This post was contributed by Joelle Mornini. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company Landon IP, a major provider of patent searches, trademark searches, technical translations, and information retrieval services.