kpw10 writes: The online access to US patent data has seen significant changes recently with the release of Google's patent search as well as the beta launch of the All Patents Initiative search interface. For the first time, these tools allow public search access to US patents issued since 1790 — current search tools offered by the USPTO only allow searching back to 1976. In addition to allowing search access the All Patent Initiative, operated by a consortium of business and academic interests, intends to address the needs of bulk users of patent data. Currently those wishing to access data about the patent collection in its entirety for analytical purposes, such as examining trends innovation, must either purchase data from the USPTO or other commercial providers — an unfortunately and surprisingly common problem with public datasets. In some respects these two system mirror the ideological differences between Google's book scanning project and the Internet Archive's Open Library. Each provides access to a vast public domain dataset — one by effectively making it property of a corporation and the other by distributing digital ownership to the public. Perhaps this is a trend?
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