Embarking on a New Adventure: Open Data at the US Patent and Trademark Office

Few things are more exciting than arriving at an unknown platform for the first time. Whether it's Grand Central Station, Roma Termini, or the metro in Moscow, the idea that unknown possibilities are within reach is thrilling. The blur of hurried strangers, the unfamiliar sounds of travel information constantly refreshed, and the myriad of signs offering directions in foreign languages spark limitless ideas, a fair amount of confusion, and a quest to move forward. In the best case scenario, you have already done your research, talked to your friends, and read the travel brochures and guidebooks so you have a vague idea of what you are about to set off and do. But there is nothing like that feeling on that platform as you embark on your adventure.

When the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office heard President Obama's call to provide the public with transparency and open government, I wasn't exactly sure how one of the country's oldest federal agencies would be able to respond. I challenged a small internal team to act like a "start-up" and develop some new ideas on how to use the vast reserves of data the USPTO gathers to help solve some of the agency's age old challenges. They built a platform to dive into what very well may be the world's largest repository of data on innovation and research and development technology trends. The unveiling of the USPTO's new Open Data and Mobility Program offers a new platform in an ecological way to discover, explore, and innovate.

I'm thrilled to say this month we made a great leap into exposing the world to this wealth of information when we launched the USPTO's new Developer Hub. We're providing vast data sets, interactive visualizations, and a community platform for sharing and discussing this data. While this treasure trove of data has been available to the public for centuries, we also provided a step-by-step guide for you, the user, to create your own insights about innovation and share it with the world in the community café. Go to github link to get the tutorial and be empowered - http://commercedataservice.github.io/tutorial_pto/.

For most of our history you had to flip through a bunch of paper documents to find what you needed. Times have changed--fortunately, quite profoundly. Now, with this new tool, anyone with even the most basic programming experience will be able to explore our data according to their own interests, curiosity, and business needs. This makes it easier for innovators--from researchers to entrepreneurs to well-established companies--to mine this data, help inform them where to allocate research and development resources, and provide them with a much more detailed view of the competitive landscape than previously available. This access to extensive patent data also provides current information on the competitive landscape.

This data will not only bring more intelligence to technology trends, but when government data silos are broken down with easily digested, open data, it also has the opportunity to bring powerful advancements that could greatly improve people's health and quality of lives across the globe. In 2016, it is estimated that more than 1.6 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed and about 600,000 American lives will be lost to the disease. Under the direction of the Vice President of the United States Joe Biden, the USPTO is collaborating with a coalition of government agencies, including the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Veterans Affairs, along with the National Institutes of Health and others to figure out ways our agencies can provide data to spur advances in the treatment of cancer. This Cancer Moonshot Task Force's goal is to use the data to inform public policy, and to make that data available to other interested groups so they can use it to best invest in the areas that are showing the most promise.

By streamlining the patent process for technologies that show promise, government and research entities can make more precise investments in the areas the data illuminates. We can now look at which areas of innovation are showing the most promise, use that data to scope out what tech is most germane to cancer treatments, and fast track those treatments through the process. This could spur innovation, help direct funding to fast track advancements, and possibly get cancer research and ultimately patients better tools to fight the pervasive disease.

I believe these ideas are just scratching the surface of the prospects of how this data can change the world. The establishment of a shareable and "social" platform to showcase unique ways to use our data and combine it with other datasets, such as economic and geographic data, provides endless opportunities. This unique forum hosted in the Developer Hub not only leverages the power of the crowd to address questions about trends in technology and innovation, but also functions as a forum for users of our hub to provide input to the USPTO on other types of data sets we should release. This sharing and feedback loop allow the community and the USPTO to extract new value from our data reserves, allowing all players in the innovation ecosystem to have better information to make smarter decisions.

Successful companies have harnessed other government data, such as real estate apps using U.S. Census data and the weather apps using real-time and historical NOAA data. Similarly, we want our data to be inspiring, useful, spur innovation, and create conversations.

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For example, the graph shows there are now more U.S. patents granted to foreign inventors than to U.S. inventors. This speaks highly to the United States being the best place for global innovators to register their patents. We take pride in the world seeking out our IP system; however, we do not take it for granted that the jobs and industries take root here. The administration continues to take important steps to put more tools in the hands of businesses of all size, domestically. This ensures that the best ideas not only take root here, but they're ideally conceived, designed, and built here in the United States resulting in jobs for Americans. This is just a glimpse into the data on our new platform, but it's easy to see how it could help us make even better data-driven policy decisions that could have even greater impacts on society. Further, it underscores how important it is to foster innovation through science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education to encourage even more innovators here in the United States to create new innovations.

I can only imagine what many insights we can find using this new tool. Along with our other open data platforms, including PatentsView, and others, I'm excited about the possibilities and impacts that this open and accessible approach to government information will bring. We challenge developers and innovators to dive into the wealth of information we are now providing. We want developers and anyone to pose questions, use this data to create visualizations, and share these new insights in our Community Portal. Right now we have interactive visualizations that give us awareness into topics that we have never had before, and we know there are many more questions to be answered. And isn't that the best kind of adventure on which to embark? Join us on the platform!