Researchers are increasingly protecting their ideas via patents

Patent laws favour the person who files first, and this AI-powered tool helps innovators protect their ideas and prevent patent rejections.

Fights over who owns the rights to intellectual property are not uncommon, even among big firms that have been in business for decades. In some instances, world-renowned companies have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar of intellectual property theft. The small fries from whom they ‘take’ ideas have won the battle by having prior patents.

On January 6, 2022, tech giant Google lost a court battle against relatively smaller American firm Sonos for infringing on its patented innovations in wireless speaker technology. Initially, Sonos and Google had a deal on the use of a wireless speaker technology owned by Sonos in 2005. The licensing deal was to allow Google’s Play Music to work with Sonos wireless speakers. But by 2013, Google started making wireless speakers and other items using Sonos’ technology, profiting off the startup while it lost money.

Although the startup won the case against Google — who infringed five of Sonos’ patents — the incident demonstrated a prime example of larger companies’ unlawful use of others’ patented technologies. The major reason Sonos was able to win was because it owned the patent to the technology. 

Resolving patent fights 

There are often disputes over patents among collaborators when deciding on who deserves to be credited as an inventor in collaborations, disputes in cases of predatory infringement, and disputes with patent search engines that do not provide innovators the much-needed security when searching for keywords before filing.

Patent laws favour the person who files first and describes a new invention in their application, and not necessarily the researcher behind the idea. This can be damning to many research scientists who rush to publish their findings in peer-reviewed papers out of concern that their ideas may be snatched up by others.

typewriter showing copyright claim
Typewriter showing copyright claim
Credit: Unsplash / Markus Winkler

Researchers are increasingly being urged to think about the bigger picture of their work, including its potential economic applications. Patents serve as a partial indication of the impact of technological innovation and as a predictor of a startup being able to secure external funding.

“Researchers who are interested in turning their existing research into useful patents should do their homework to find out what’s already been achieved commercially, and whether there are any related patents out there, before spending resources on the patenting process,” says John Collins, a commercialisation adviser at Innovation Foundry in London, in Andy Tay’s article published in Nature

For scientists who recognise the impact of their inventions in solving various problems, securing their intellectual property by patenting their technology is the first step towards having a successful business. 

Before investing time, money, and other resources in the patenting process, researchers who are interested in turning their ideas into useful patents should conduct their research to determine what has previously been accomplished commercially and whether there are any similar patents out there. 

“Online patent databases have improved significantly in recent years, which is good news for researchers,” says John Gray, a Glasgow-based UK and European patent attorney. “Even free services include powerful machine-translation functions: this means a rough translation of foreign-language patents is just a mouse-click away.”

Online patent databases have improved significantly in recent years, which is good news for researchers.

John Gray, European patent attorney

But not all search engines can plough through necessary databases and present results that suit the needs of inventors and researchers. To achieve this, they need to search reliable patent databases like PQAI Search, read older studies and surveys, and keep an eye on news from possible competitors.

Providing users with cutting-edge patent search technology

Companies like Patent Quality through Artificial Intelligence (PQAI) aim to help innovators prevent patent rejections. Unlike Google Patents, PQAI only presents the top 10 accurate and relevant results that are pertinent to users; search queries. Its user-friendly interface also lets users decide on what kind of information to include in a search.

PQAI CEO Sam Zellner explains that, although applying for a patent can be difficult and time-consuming, having applications rejected because another patent already exists for a related idea can be even more heart-wrenching. 

“A significant percentage of applications filed at patent offices around the world are rejected because the inventors ended up reinventing something already patented. PQAI helps inventors in locating all of the inspiration and prior work on their problems, better than any other search engine does for you,” Zellner adds.

A significant percentage of applications filed at patent offices around the world are rejected because the inventors ended up reinventing something already patented.

Sam Zellner, CEO of PQAI

The artificial intelligence-powered search engine allows innovators to save large amounts of time on patent research and can choose to make changes to their ideas before filing for a patent to prevent intellectual property theft or forgo the patent entirely.

Inventors are not the only ones who can benefit from using AI-powered tools like PQAI. Patent examiners are required to conduct a thorough prior search before deciding whether to award a patent, but with so much data, this task is becoming more and more challenging. 

“When researchers reach out to me with their ideas early, it gives me more time and a better opportunity to understand the science, the potential impact of their work and their entrepreneurship goals,” Christina Hedberg, a technology licensing officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), told Nature. “The more we know about the research and where a potential invention fits in, the easier it is to decide whether to file a patent.”

Accelerating the patenting process

Many times, brilliant research projects languish in forgotten research papers or Github repositories, collecting (digital) dust. By making research available to actual consumers, regardless of their language, PQAI seeks to empower academics to make a significant difference with their work. 

PQAI intends to give patent experts the resources they need to conduct precise searches using AI.

Sam Zellner, CEO of PQAI

Through this reliable patent search engine, creators and inventors are equipped with the cutting-edge features and tools they need to succeed. It also assists start-ups, small businesses, and underfunded inventors from a variety of backgrounds in appropriately evaluating their discoveries. Under the restrictions of a limited budget, it helps them succeed more at the patent office. 

“PQAI intends to give patent experts the resources they need to conduct precise searches using AI,” says Zellner.