Magazine article Information Today

A Ton of Patents Behind Him: Aurigin Systems CEO Kevin Rivette Talks about His Company's Products and Competitors. (IT Interview)

Magazine article Information Today

A Ton of Patents Behind Him: Aurigin Systems CEO Kevin Rivette Talks about His Company's Products and Competitors. (IT Interview)

Article excerpt

Kevin Rivette, founder and CEO of patent analytics company Aurigin Systems, Inc., believes patents should be used as weapons of business competition, not just as legal tools. He spoke to me about his company's origins, solutions, and competitors.

Q: When and why was Aurigin founded?

A: I founded the company in 1992. Back then you could get a patent faxed to you by Dialog or STN, but it wasn't electronic. Or you could buy an electronic copy, but it didn't have the kind of features that a licensing executive or litigation counsel needed. You couldn't make any annotations on it, for instance, or add other documents such as your litigation testimony.

Q: So the SmartPatents product was developed to address this?

A: Right. We built a product that included the text of the patent in an electronically readable form, plus the image of the patent, and then we put a wrapper around it--effectively a browser on steroids--to allow you to annotate and group patents.

Q: This was a desktop product?

A: Initially. It was designed for one person and 100 patents. In 1997, however, we discovered that, in addition to being used by individual licensing people and litigators, SmartPatents was also being used by large companies for strategic purposes.

Q: Such as?

A: For example, when it split up, AT&T divided its entire portfolio using SmartPatents. They created groups and started making annotations, saying which patents NCR should have, which ones Lucent should have, and which ones should stay with AT&T. I realized this when they called me up and said, "You know, Kevin, your product is real nice, but it takes a long time to boot up." It turned out they had stuck 10,000 patents in the system and were running it over a WAN.

Q: So you had to extend its capabilities?

A: The upshot was we started to hire more people and we built a more sophisticated client/server system. Today we've got around 100 employees and about 90-plus big customers. This includes Fortune 500 companies like GE, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Monsanto, HP, Siemens, and Procter & Gamble.

Q: At some point the company's name was changed from SmartPatents to Aurigin. Why?

A: We changed the name in 1998. We had started to build this new system, and everybody said, "You know, there is so much data in there that is business-related as much as technical." So we changed to Aurigin, which is more of a generic name. "Au" is the elemental symbol for gold.

Q: What do you mean by business related information?

A: Our system can answer questions like "Who is entering my space?" "Who is leaving my space?" "Why did this fail?" "Who is using the technology that I developed in a different way?"

Q: You also specialize in visualization tools?

A: Right. In fact, we were the first to figure out what to do with the hyperbolic lens for citation analysis, and we extended the hyperbolic lens so that you can double-click through it and colorize to add different attributes. We were also the first to use thematic maps on this type of data.

Q: What does this provide that traditional patent information can't?

A: Lateral thinking.

Q: How do you mean?

A: If you were in the automotive industry, for instance, and you did a traditional search for "fiber-reinforced drive shaft" you would come up with around 5,000 patents, which you would then have to narrow down to about 100 patents.

Aurigin would find these same 5,000 patents. It would also search laterally. So while a searcher using a traditional patent information source could bring back driveshaft patents with golf club applications, they wouldn't find medical-device applications--showing, for instance, that stent technology is moving into the arena of stainless steel and into carbon-reinforced stent. Aurigin's visualization tools, however, would.

Q: Talk me through your products. …

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