IBM’s Watson Could be a Major Player on the Patent Landscape

By Joseph Mandour on December 12, 2011

Patent LawSan Diego – Watson, the IBM computer famous for winning a game of Jeopardy against Ken Jennings, may now have its supercomputer capabilities put to use in the patent world.

IBM has implemented new software into the computer called the Strategic IP Insight Platform (SSIP) that allows Watson to search through peer reviewed medical articles and pharmaceutical patents. The SSIP software enables Watson to identify the chemical compounds in this vast array of information and generate a chemical compound database. Further, Watson also catalogs the chemical compounds in the database to include other relevant information such as the inventors, the patent term, and the companies or assignees who own the chemical compound and their finances.

As an example of Watson’s capabilities, it searched through 4.7 million patents and 11 million articles dated from 1976 to 2000, and created a database of 2.5 million chemical compounds. IBM has since donated this database to the National Institutes of Health to allow scientists to access information that would otherwise be very costly and time consuming to get.

From this great potential with Watson also comes an ethical dilemma. On one side, Watson could identify potential drug targets that could lead to improved research and development for new pharmaceutical drugs. On the flip side, Watson could target vulnerable companies who own lucrative patents and pass this information onto “patent trolls” leading to increased litigation and restrictive licensing practices.

IBM has yet to state how they will utilize Watson. But how IBM utilizes Watson for its own benefit may give an indication. By re-tooling Watson’s software, IBM could search through the vast amount of computer-related patents and articles available. IBM owns 50,000 patents and filed for 6,000 in 2010 alone. They stand to benefit immensely from Watson if they so choose.

Even national patent offices may stand to benefit from Watson in the long run. Watson has the potential to search through prior art patents and articles faster and more efficiently than human examiners, resulting in decreased laime for obtaining a patent.

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