The Patent Piler

I met Allan Tokuda when I was a Teaching and Research Fellow at Northwestern University. I was helping teach a course on Innovation and Invention in the engineering program. Allan was one of the brighter and more inquisitive students. I knew he had some remarkable qualities when, before class one day, he took out a Rubik’s Cube. He could consistently scramble the puzzle and solve it in less than two minutes.

Allan and I eventually put our minds together to attack the problem of patent claim language and its obfuscating qualities. Allan brought top notch software coding and logical analysis. I brought my knowledge of claims and claim structures and the problems lay people and inventors routinely face when they try to read these sentences. Patent claims, for those new to patents, are the legal definition that describes the property boundaries of a patented invention. Patent claims are what get litigated in court and are located at the very end of the patent document.

The result of our combined efforts is something called the Patent Piler (at this Website). It is an open source project and resource guide that allows anyone to look up a patent by the patent number, search and compare any of that patent claims with other claims in the patent. Here is an image of how it works.

Patent Piler
Patent Piler

The tool, as shown above, highlights the differences between claims in the same patent.

Why is this useful? Oftentimes the most confusing thing about reading patent claims is distinguishing why one claim is different from another. One claim might be different from another due to a difference of just a few words.

The software also does useful things like break down claims by their type, for example methods, products, chemical compounds  or machines. The software also allows you to select independent claims, those claims which stand by themselves and are modified by subsidiary claims, called dependent claims.

Try it out for yourself. If you don’t have a specific patent to analyze, try inputting this curious patent number in the box: 6584450

If you like to code and want to make reading patent claims easier, try improving the source code, it is freely available at this site.

A quick note: for now the software runs great on Firefox, not so great on Internet Explorer.

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