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The Most Underutilized Source of Ideas

You want to invent the next big thing, but you don’t know exactly what? In this post you’ll find how to tap to over 100 million of already recorded, novel, non-obvious, and useful ideas described in English of course.

As J.M. Kaplan and A.C. Warren aptly noticed in “Patterns of Entrepreneurship Management” probably the most underutilized sources of ideas are patent databases. Patent databases record ideas, that by patentability criteria must be novel, non-obvious, and useful.

The main goal of filing a patent is to protect technology know-how of their inventors, and to limit the rights of commercializing the invention to inventor, or also parties, which inventor will agree to license the patent to. Patents in principle are to reward inventors, who successfully commercialize their inventions.

However what often happens is that patents become forgotten and not exploited by inventors, as they do not know how to develop a market as their invention simply precedes its time. Every patent officially registered points out inventions importance and applications, refers to prior ideas, and explains why the idea is useful. And guess what? This might lead you to other inventions, negotiation of licensing the patent from its inventor, or setting up a joint-venture with the inventor leading to patented invention commercialization.

Patent databases might be a wonderland of opportunities with business potential, and now – surprise, surprise, you will learn how to get to this wonderland.

Everyone, who would like to approach and exploit officially registered patents can use online patent databases and search engines. These sources are usually searchable by key words, patents owners, and dates of filing. Patents databases can be also inspiring source for analyses of technology, and market development.

Just take a moment and check recent records on e.g. 3D printing, smart watches, wireless charging, or autonomous vehicles in my favorite patent databases and patent search engines:

United States Patents and Trademark Office (USPTO) – aggregates of U.S. patent applications, that for end of 2011amointed in nearly 9 million records. For browsing USPTO search engine you need to remember that it uses Boolean operators you need to select manually.

Espacenet – developed by European Patent Organization (EPO) and launched in 1998 in 2015 claimed to have records on over 90 million patent publications. In 2012 Espacenet “Patent Translate” service developed together with Google. “Patent Translate” enables translation of technical patent’s description into 31 languages. In 2013 Espacenet obtained the highest score in comparison study performed by Patent Information News between Espacenet, USPTO, DepatisNet, Freepatentsonline, and Google Patents. Advanced search engine of Espacenet can be found here.

Google Patents – a search engine from Google that indexes patents and patent applications not only from already mentioned USPTO, Espacenet, and DepatisNet, but also from World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO), and China’s State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO).

Patent databases might also show if what you work on in terms of invention is already registered and protected by law. It has particular importance in technology-based innovations. Therefore consider patent databases as source of independent “reality check” and feedback supporting iteration on invention you are working on.

Dzida !