CROSS REFERENCE SECTION
This application is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/026,790 entitled “Automated Patent Office Documentation,” filed Dec. 30, 2004, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.
This present disclosure is generally related to providing hyperlinks that accesses patent related information.
Many of the documents created by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) reference other documents. Much time and difficult effort are often consumed searching for those references and then locating the specific sections within the document. This unnecessarily complicates and lengthens the patent prosecution process. The references can be found manually either via accessing paper records or through electronic access. The potential exists for many proper references to go undetected.
Therefore, there is a need for systems and methods that address these and/or other perceived shortcomings.
The present disclosure provides systems and methods for automated patent office documentation. Some embodiments provide for analyzing electronic content such as an issued patent, application for paten, Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) office action, associated patent support data such as PTO information, and/or other reference materials, along with user input to identify references to external information, and insert the electronic association into the electronic content.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
Other systems, methods, and/or computer program products according to embodiment will be or become apparent to one with skill in the art upon review of the following drawings and detailed description. It is intended that all such additional systems, methods, and/or computer program products be included within this description and be within the scope of the present disclosure.
Many aspects of the disclosure can be better understood with reference to the following drawings. The components in the drawings are not necessarily to scale, emphasis instead being placed upon clearly illustrating the principles of the present disclosure. Moreover, in the drawings, like reference numerals designate corresponding parts throughout the several views.
FIG. 1 is a block diagram of an automated patent office documentation system according to an exemplary embodiment.
FIG. 2 is a flow diagram of an automated patent office documentation system according to an exemplary embodiment.
FIG. 3 is an illustration showing various electronic documents linked to an office action.
FIG. 4 shows a representative office action with electronic associations added as viewed using a web browser.
Reference is now made in detail to the description of the embodiments as illustrated in the drawings. The disclosure may, however, be embodied in many different forms and should not be construed as limited to the embodiments set forth herein; rather, these embodiments are intended to convey the scope of the disclosure to those skilled in the art. Furthermore, all “examples” given herein are intended to be non-limiting.
The present disclosure provides systems and methods for automated patent office documentation. FIG. 1 is a block diagram of one embodiment of the system 100 for inserting electronic associations into patent office documentation. An example of an electronic association is a hyperlink. As shown in FIG. 1, in one embodiment, the automated patent office documentation system 100 resides in one or more general purpose computers 110 that are coupled to sources of public information, e.g., a Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) server 115, a search engine 125, and a web server 130, over a network such as the Internet 105.
In the operating environment shown in FIG. 1, a user of a general purpose computer 110 accesses one or more sources of public information such as PTO information and PTO support data 120 stored in a database, reference materials 135 stored in one or more databases, and information from search engines 125 (including web crawlers and other search logic) over a network such as the Internet 105. The system 100 can be implemented in software, firmware, hardware, or a combination thereof. According to an exemplary embodiment, the system 100 is implemented in software, as an executable program, and is executed by a special or general purpose digital computer 110, such as a personal computer, workstation, minicomputer, or mainframe computer. When implemented in software, the system 100 can be stored and transported on any computer-readable medium for use by or in connection with an instruction execution system, apparatus, or device, such as a computer-based system, processor-containing system, or other system that can fetch the instructions from the instruction execution system, apparatus, or device and execute the instructions. In the context of this document, a “computer-readable medium” can be any means that can contain, store, communicate, propagate, or transport the program for use by or in connection with the instruction execution system, apparatus, or device. The computer readable medium can be, for example but not limited to, an electronic, magnetic, optical, electromagnetic, infrared, or semiconductor system, apparatus, device, or propagation medium. More specific examples (a non-exhaustive list) of the computer-readable medium may include the following: an electrical connection (electronic) having one or more wires, a portable computer diskette (magnetic), a random access memory (RAM) (electronic), a read-only memory (ROM) (electronic), an erasable programmable read-only memory (EPROM or Flash memory) (electronic), an optical fiber (optical), and a portable compact disc read-only memory (CDROM) (optical). Note that the computer-readable medium could even be paper or another suitable medium upon which the program is printed, as the program can be electronically captured, via for instance optical scanning of the paper or other medium, then compiled, interpreted or otherwise processed in a suitable manner if necessary, and then stored in a computer memory. In addition, the scope of the present invention includes embodying the functionality of the exemplary embodiments in logic embodied in hardware or software-configured mediums.
FIG. 2 is a flow diagram of one embodiment of the system 100 for inserting electronic associations into patent office documentation. As shown in FIG. 2, the system 100 provides for input from electronic content 150, support data input 152, reference material input 154, a patent analysis module 155, a search module 160, a link analysis module 165, and a link insertion module 170. According to an exemplary embodiment, the search module 160 has access to local servers, databases, and sources of public information, for example, via Internet services.
According to an exemplary embodiment, the patent analysis module 155 analyzes the electronic content 150 to find and identify cite(s) to external references. As examples, among others, the electronic content 150 could be patent information gleaned from an issued patent granted by the PTO, a patent application, or an office action. For an issued patent, the patent information may be considered to include information contained within the issued patent. Examples of patent information for an issued patent are the abstract, the specification, the claims, and the drawings. Locating external references that are cited in the electronic content 150 could be based on identifying such factors as formal citations, patent numbers, domain names, or URLs, among others. Further, fuzzy logic or artificial intelligence could be utilized to effect rule-based analysis.
It should be noted that the system 100 could function as electronic content 150 is created, or with previously existing electronic content 150. For example, with previously existing electronic content 150 such as an office action, the system 100 could process the office action as above and create a version of the office action having electronic associations to cited references. However, the system 100 could also be operable to create electronic associations while a user, e.g., an examiner, creates an office action. Additionally, a user could insert an electronic tag into the electronic content 150, to signify an external reference where one might not otherwise be detectable via the patent analysis module 155, e.g., where an examiner paraphrases a reference.
Upon identification of an external reference by the patent analysis module 155, the search module 160 will proceed to locate the actual external reference. The search module 160 may utilize search engines, web crawlers, or other appropriate search technology. The search module 160 may have access to the electronic content 150, patent support data 152, and reference materials 154. The electronic content 150, as noted previously, is that patent information gleaned from, e.g., an issued patent granted by the PTO, a patent application, or an office action, among others. Patent support data may be considered to include information contained within the prosecution history of the patent. Examples of patent support data or associated PTO information, are PTO office actions, other granted patent or published patent application cited within the issued patent, other issued patents or applications for patent that cite the patent at issue, and PTO classification information. Examples of reference materials include dictionaries, encyclopedias, electronic legal research tools (e.g., NexisLexis and WestLaw), an image/picture library, a video library, a sound library, a music library, and business sources. Many of these information sources would typically be provided to the search module 160 via access to local servers, databases, and sources of public information, for example, via Internet services.
After searching for and locating the external reference, the link analysis module 165 will analyze the external reference to verify that it is the proper reference. The link analysis module 165 will then create an electronic association, such as a hyperlink, that is operable to open the reference and display it either in the same window or in a separate window, as examples. Verification could occur by comparing the title, comparing the citation to the reference, or other appropriate methods as is known in the art. Context analysis or rule-based analysis may also be utilized in the verification of the reference. For example, if the external reference title was close but did not exactly correspond to the title of the located reference, then the context may be examined using keywords or exact quotes from the two references. The external reference would be considered verified if the analysis produced a prescribed confidence level.
The link analysis module 165 may also analyze the reference to identify the portion of the reference to be displayed when the reference is opened by the electronic association. For example, an office action often refers to the page, column, and line number of a patent that is cited as prior art. The relevant page, column, and line number would be used to allow the patent to be opened to the exact location that is relevant to the office action. Alternatively, the reference could be opened at the beginning or top of the reference. Where the external reference is not a patent, the available citation or an exact quote may be utilized to locate the portion of the reference to be displayed. Again, fuzzy logic or artificial intelligence could be utilized to effect rule-based analysis of the electronic content 150 and the external reference in order to locate the relevant portion of the reference. Additionally, the relevant portion of the external reference could be highlighted when it is displayed upon operation of the electronic association.
Often an external reference is cited without specifically identifying the relevant location within the reference. Once the external reference is properly identified, the link analysis module 165 may identify the relevant portion. Both the patent information and the external reference will be analyzed. The link analysis module 165 may, for example, perform context analysis and keyword parsing of the electronic content 150 within the proximity of the citation to the external reference. The resulting information may then be used to analyze the actual external reference in an attempt to identify the relevant portion. If a sufficient confidence level is not obtained during the analysis of the external reference, then the electronic content 150 will be analyzed again using a larger proximity to the cited external reference. The external reference will again be analyzed to determine whether a match to the relevant portion may be identified. The process may be repeated until adequate results are obtained or until a desired confidence level point is deemed unattainable.
The link analysis module 165 may also determine that the cited external references would be more beneficial if a copy were placed in a common location. For example a common location may be desirable where the information is located on a server that is not available during certain time periods. The link analysis module 165 will then create an electronic association to the common location copy of the external reference rather than creating an electronic association to the actual external reference.
Upon creation of an electronic association corresponding to the external reference, the link insertion module 170 will insert an electronic association into the relevant portion of a new version of the electronic content 150, the linked electronic content 175. Of course, multiple electronic associations will be inserted if the same external reference appears in the electronic content 150 more than once. After inserting the appropriate electronic association(s), the process may be repeated until the electronic content 150 has had all desirable external references electronically associated. Again, it should be noted that any reference within the electronic content 150 may be electronically associated by the automated patent office documentation system 100.
System 100 can add electronic associations to any document maintained by the PTO, such as patent applications, issued patents, office actions, information disclosure statements, etc. As shown in FIG. 3, the electronic content, an electronic version of a document, may be associated electronically to any other external reference that is cited. FIG. 3 demonstrates that an office action 180 may be electronically associated to a patent application 184, an issued patent 188, a non-patent reference 182, and other PTO information 186. A non-patent reference 182 would include any of the reference materials 154 discussed previously.
Occasionally electronic content 150 such as a patent application 184, or other patent information 186 may contain references for which no electronic version is readily available. Such a reference could readily be scanned and then optical character recognition software could convert the reference into an electronic version suitable for use in the automated office documentation system 100. The electronic version of the scanned document could be stored in the common location discussed previously, and an appropriate electronic association could be created for the reference.
As shown in FIG. 4, a newly linked electronic content 175, such as an office action, may be readily viewed in any conventional web browser, in one embodiment. Any external reference, cited within the electronic content 150, may be electronically associated, in the newly created linked electronic content 175, with the appropriate external reference. The system 100 also allows sections of the patent law to be linked as in FIG. 4, via electronic associations to the United States Code, for example. Additionally, the automated patent office documentation system 100 may provide electronic associations to other PTO resources such as PTO classification information, the Manuel of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP), or any other materials that could be cited in the electronic content 150.
It should be emphasized that the above-described embodiments of the present disclosure, are merely possible examples of implementations, merely set forth for a clear understanding of the principles of the disclosure. Many variations and modifications may be made to the above-described embodiment(s) of the disclosure without departing substantially from the spirit and principles of the disclosure. All such modifications and variations are intended to be included herein within the scope of this disclosure.