Rapid Patent, a private provider of U.S. and international patent documentation, has made available Patent Explorer, the only complete collection of U.S. software patents on CD-ROM. Patent Explorer provides users with full-text of all software patents from 1972 through 1993.
Patent Explorer is a result of a collaborative effort between Rapid Patent and Electronic Data Systems (EDS), a global leader in information technology and services. Together, the two companies identified more than ten thousand software patents which are now contained within the Patent Explorer CD-ROM. Searches for software patents are substantially limited, due to the fact that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has assigned many software patents to categories other than software. Therefore, traditional search methods, which rely on the USPTO's classification scheme, make it almost impossible to find a comprehensive list of software patents.
The Patent Explorer CD-ROM product takes a unique approach to the software patents themselves. Using natural language searching, which does not rely on the USPTO's classification system, the Patent Explorer CD-ROM has grouped software patents into natural clusters, based on the technology each patent contains. Anyone searching software patents on the Patent Explorer CD-ROM can quickly identify the software patents that share similar technologies.
"It could be some time before the battle between the patent office and the software industry is resolved," said Brett Butler, president of INFOUR, an information development firm based in Foster City, California. "Patent Explorer is the only tool available today that provides a comprehensive search method for software developers engaging in the development of important new systems."
The interest in patent law is at an all-time high. Patent intelligence is increasingly critical in the intensely competitive software industry. The recent announcement by Compton's New Media that they ad received a very broad patent on multimedia programs that store and retrieve graphics, sound, animation, and text was immediately followed by vehement debate within the software industry and was by no means the first such controversy surrounding a software patent. …