This week the USPTO announced the launch of the Global Patent Search Network, a database that allows users to search non-U.S. patents in both English and the patent’s native language. The initial effort is a database of Chinese patents, with machine translations provided by the State Intellectual Property Office of China.
According to USPTO Acting Director Teresa Stanek Rea:
This new search tool delivers to the public, as well as our patent examiners, an additional source of foreign patent collections. Furthermore, the immediate availability of English machine translations will effectively address the language barrier and allow for quick analysis of the relevancy of the prior art while reducing the need for costly human translations. Machine translation technology can sometimes generate awkward wording, but it provides an excellent way to determine the gist of the information in a foreign patent.
The GSPN is not quite an acceptable substitute for commercially available search services. The GSPN’s database is currently limited to Chinese patents granted between 2008 and 2011. Until the USPTO expands both the chronological and the geographical scope of the database, its use is likely limited to (i) USPTO examiners, as an additional source for searching global patents in the English language, and (i) situations where a member of the public wants to retrieve a specific Chinese patent based on number or title.
Nonetheless, even if the target audience of the GSPN is only the USPTO’s internal examining corps, then so long as the USPTO continues to support expansion of available data, the GSPN is a good first step in facilitating access to global patent information.