The Patent Disruptors

Peter Walde and Matthias Plaue develop software that can search 10,000 patents in one minute.

There are more than 150 patent offices worldwide. For some inventors, that is tantamount to 150 ways to create bureaucratic roadblocks to global innovation.

Now new software may be the aspirin to a patent-seeker’s headache, streamlining how companies search for information beyond just who has filed what patents and where.

“We want to help democratize the patent market,” said Peter Walde, CEO of Mapegy, a company that offers cloud-based software that makes 10,000 patents accessible in one minute.

It’s an audacious task.

Consider this: 1.876 million patents were filed in 2012 among the world’s five largest patent offices, otherwise known as the IP5, a group that includes the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the European Patent Office, the Japan Patent Office, the Korean Intellectual Property Office, and the State Intellectual Property Office of the People’s Republic of China.

The IP5 reviews 85 percent of the world’s patent applications, granting nearly 924,000 patents in 2012. And that number was up by 17 percent from the previous year, according to the USPTO.

“How many patents does a country have? That’s an easy question,” Walde said. “But if you want to evaluate them, for example, how much the patents are worth compared to another portfolio, that’s another issue.”

Mapegy ‘cleans up’ patent applications so that they can be viewed in a consistent format. From there, the company can tailor algorithms to meet a client’s information needs.

“You have to put data together like a puzzle,” Walde said. “What Google does for the Internet you can also do for patents.”

Although much of that work is a bird’s-eye view approximation, Mapegy’s creators plan to launch more specific visualization that could help clients differentiate an app Apple launches to that of another provider with a similar service.

So far the Mapegy.radar and Mapegy.scout are tools the company markets to provide clients with quick insights into a predefined technology area, as well as a search, analysis program that details trends, networks, and competitors.

“They call it smart money in the entrepreneur ecosystem,” said Matthias Plaue, the company’s chief scientific officer.

To offer another example, Plaue can assemble a low-dimensional representation to visualize co-operations between companies, or identify “hot” topics and weak signals within the technology landscape.

This specific focus map identifies areas where there has been high patenting activity by companies and research institutions from Berlin.

Walde and Plaue come from varied fields. Walde spent several years working in the engineering departments at Volkswagen and Audi, two companies that now use Mapegy’s services. Plaue joined Mapegy after completing a Ph.D. in physics from the Technische Universität Berlin. (Plaue’s dissertation topic was on relativity theory. As an historical aside, Albert Einstein took the opposite career approach, first working at a patent office before gaining recognition for his theories on relativity.)

Although other European companies offer patent search tools and visualization, Plaue says Mapegy has the ability to scale up for large firms needing Big Data visualization.

That doesn’t mean Mapegy is forgetting the little guy.

“We have to develop our tools to make them easier to use and cheaper, so that a small-to-medium sized company can take advantage,” Walde said.

Photo and story by Claudia Adrien; graphic property of Mapegy

The article was originally published April 29, 2014 at berlinSCI.com.

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