Patent Searching is Evolving: PIUG 2018

By June 5, 2018June 23rd, 2023No Comments
Patent Searching

From Saturday, May 5th through Thursday, May 10th, 2018, Eric Podlogar, ktMINE’s IP Strategy & Valuation Market Lead, joined nearly 300 attendees at the Annual Patent Information Users Group (PIUG) Conference in Alexandria, Virginia.

PIUG is a nonprofit organization dedicated to “supporting, assisting and enhancing” efforts associated with the “retrieval, analysis and dissemination of patent information.” ( Overall, PIUG has more than 600 active members coming from law firms, regulatory agencies, service providers, research specialists, universities, and corporations.

This was the 30th Annual Conference and it brought together patent searchers, vendors, patent examiners from the USPTO, and others in a packed agenda filled with workshops, sessions, and exhibits dedicated to the complex world of patent searching.

PIUG took great care at this event to bring new attendees into the fold. The “Welcome and Orientation” reception occurred before the formal start of the conference and did a nice job of blending new attendees with more experienced patent search practitioners. This provided an opportunity to discuss and share techniques, resources, and experiences. New attendees were able to develop a sense of available resources and find PIUG as an open forum to discuss issues they are facing. In return, experienced attendees shared their wisdom and were exposed to new challenges outside of their domain.

  • One recurring theme at the conference revolved around the availability of data:
  • The availability of data requires new ways of thinking about how to digest data in the ever-increasing “do more with less” world
    New techniques are necessary to process and analyze large data volumes

Positive Changes for the U.S. Patent System

The opening keynote was given by Joseph Matal, recent Interim Director of the USPTO, who contributed to several recent changes in the U.S. world of patents. This includes playing a major role in the passing of the America Invents Act (AIA) in 2011, which introduced Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), among other changes.

As evidence of improvements to the U.S. patent system, Mr. Matal mentioned that the pendency of an application at the USPTO was once greater than three years but now is under 24 months. He also mentioned that although the U.S. was the last country to adopt the first-to-file patent filing for priority, this paradigm was suggested as far back as 1967 and therefore was not such a new concept. (As an aside, the Philippines was the second-to-last country to adopt first-to-file.)

A major takeaway from Mr. Matal’s presentation was the availability of an incredible amount of patent data. Because of this, “the scope of relevant information has exploded” causing a shift in the way that patent searches are now conducted. The new and more digitally driven methodologies offer much more detailed results, which contrast with the older and more manual means of data processing. The old problems associated with locating viable datasets are supplanted with the new problems related to processing that data. Patent searchers often find themselves inundated with data and are seeking ways to efficiently cull through the “chaff” to get to the “wheat.”

On top of this increase in patent data, patent searching is evolving from an activity that has been driven purely from a “legal” perspective, (addressing validity, obviousness, etc), to one where “business” considerations are providing the purpose of the investigation. It is clear that the boundaries of search are expanding.


The conference was capped off by the Gala dinner held in the lower atrium inside the James Madison Building, the purpose of which was to recognize the contributions by individuals to PIUG and the world of patent information.

Thomas Beach, The Chief Data Strategist & Portfolio Manager of Digital Services & Big Data at the USPTO provided the keynote. The current efforts at the USPTO are revolving around ways to convert the complicated datasets generated by the USPTO into a more consumable format. Document sharing, XMLization, standardization, and many other factors allow the collected datasets to be fully utilized and unencumbered. With the convergence of big data, computational, analytical and countless other innovations, we’re already witnessing solutions that aid in search and analysis efforts. It is also clear that more is on the way.

The Old vs The New

As the conference began to wind down, PIUG facilitated several networking dinners. These were smaller informal dinners with richer conversation that offered a chance to learn from the experts. Several discussions revolved around how searchers used to manually flip through patents stored in “shoes” to find relevant art, and then jot down patent numbers for subsequent and detailed review.

These dinner stories highlighted that there is still an opportunity for improvement. For example, one searcher was heading to use the Examiner Assisted Search Tool (or “EAST”) for image searching. EAST is directly wired into the databases at the USPTO and is therefore incredibly fast. It can be set to cycle automatically through images at speeds as fast as a tenth of a second (the system is not ubiquitous, however; it is accessible only at the USPTO campus in Alexandria). It is interesting how many different ways there are to search, and perhaps telling that there is so much more that can be done to improve the tools.

At ktMINE, we recognize that in the world of data searching, each problem solved in data searching tools often uncovers another challenge. We look forward to visiting the conference again next year and to pursuing our mission of transforming data into meaningful information and actionable insights.