Hoping to demonstrate the practical applications of its own Internet offerings, IBM has opened a free public Web site holding 2 million US patent filings dating back a quarter of a century.
The database was developed by IBM for internal use by its own lawyers to speed up the process of patenting its own innovations. But it decided to open up the Patent Server to outsiders as a demonstration of its technology and, it claims, as a public service.
The US Patent and Trademark Office offers abstracts of patents free of charge on the Internet, but charges a fee to make the full text available. "[The Patent Server] saved us time and money," said Marshall Phelps, IBM vice president for intellectual property and licensing, "so we thought it would be a valuable resource to the public as well."
At present, users accessing the server at http://www.ibm.com/patents can view 1 million patent documents dating back to 1987. Documents dating back to 1974 will be added over the next few months with the final intention being to offer patents from 1971 onwards. Full text search facilities, international patent filings and links to other patent data providers will be added over time.
IBM hopes that if successful, the Patent Server will act as a practical demonstration that very large databases can be hosted on the Internet to be shared by large numbers of users. The company has provisional plans in place to post a second database holding filings from the Federal Election Commission - the equivalent of a register of members interests in UK political terms.
Meanwhile at the Internet World 97 trade show in Canada, Mark Greene, IBM vice president of electronic payments and certification, predicted that the company?s Internet-related product lines would break even this year with e-commerce proving to be the main driver.
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