Search U.S. Patents with new Google patent search

For nearly 20 years I’ve dreamed of an easy to use search engine that would index all US Patents and make it easy for any inventor or entrepreneur to do sophisticated patent research.

As an employee of Folio Corporation in the late 1980s, my job was to index huge data collections, such as AICPA content, all the IRS publications, and the US Code for our reference publishers who licensed our search engine technology. We looked at patent data several times, but it was never a project that actually got a sponsor.

With its introduction of Patent Search (in beta), Google has taken another large swath of content and made it more accessible and useful than ever before.

This will be a tremendous boon to inventors and entrepreneurs. Patent attorneys will still have to help the lay person understand what they are finding; but like individuals who do online medical research before going to the doctor, the individuals paying the patent attorneys will be more active in the conversation and more intelligent. Patent law will be less of a secret art and more open to all of us. I think this will have significant positive ramifications to business and entrepreneurship.

For information entrepreneurs like me, check another project off my list of things to do. Google is taking over the information world one large step at a time. Earlier this year Provo Labs kicked off a project to index all the SEC documents that are critical for anyone in the stock market to understand. We were able to easily download and index a large number of public filings. We did it because like the USPTO.gov site, the SEC.gov site is horrible, and all the SEC search engine sites that used to be free (during the bubble) have switched over to subscription models. Like my friend John Bresee says, an advertising model could be disruptive to these companies.

Judd Bagley suggested we launch our annual and quarterly reports search engine under the name 10qverymuch.com. So we bought that domain. But like some of our other vertical search engine ideas, we didn’t get very far along with this project. I’m glad we didn’t attempt a patent search engine; and now I’m just wondering when Google will launch it’s own SEC fillings search engine.

The SEC recently awarded $54 million in contracts, primarily to Keane, to update its Edgar database system over the next few years. I’m not sure that was necessary. Why not let one of the Google employees do this on their 20% time?

Okay, the overhaul is probably still needed; but if part of the contract is for a public-facing search engine upgrade on the SEC.gov web site, that would be completely unnecessary because Google will do this sooner or later.

I would hate to be Edgar Online right now, with Google on the prowl to index all the world’s content and make it free. Imagine the hit to the EDGR stock if and when Google unveils its SEC search engine. Ouch.

I would also hate to be 10kwizards.com, a company that I have admired.

I’m glad that Provo Labs didn’t fully fund and develop an SEC search engine, a plan which I blogged about in February, because there is no doubt in my mind that someone at Google is working on this right now.

It’s like trying to be Encyclopedia Britannica with Wikipedia around. What in the world would you do to survive? I just don’t think it’s possible.

Fortunately, for internet entrepreneurs, Google is great at search but not yet so good at community. And that leaves opportunities for information entrepreneurs who empower people to connect with each other as well as with the information they need.

But the window will close quickly. Google’s acquisition spree continues and its two latest purchases, JotSpot and YouTube are squarely in the community space. They join earlier acquisitions Pyra Labs (creator of Blogger.com) and Dodgeball, which gave Google the world’s largest blogging network and a mobile application for social networking.

Clayton Christensen, speaker at the first Open Source Business Conference in San Francisco (I can’t remember if it was 2004 or 2005) said that technology entrepreneurs had to add value to the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL and Php) and all the other open source software and web services that are freely available by doing something innovative on top of the stack.

This is really good news for entrepreneurs. Milions of dollars of development work has already been done for us, and we just have to add something new on top of the stack, in order to create value for customers.

With information entrepreneurs, I think we need to accept the fact that Google and other companies will be indexing virtually all the data in the world and providing most of it for free to everyone. As Christensen says, we’ll have to build something valueable on top of this free stack of data. It might be organizing it in a particular way, or building online communities around it, or providing online learning that takes advantage of the free information, or providing tools that help people utilize it and apply information better in their daily work, such as mobile or smart apps that are location aware or sensitive to what you are doing, so they intelligently bring the right information to you at the right time.

I believe there are more opportunities than ever before for entrepreneurs. They’re just a few notches higher on the value stack than they used to be.

Allegiance acquires National Hotline Services, Inc.

My friend Adam sent me this press release about Allegiance this morning. I have watched the last few years while SilentWhistle, which won 2nd place in a Utah Business Plan Competition a couple years ago, acquired Allegiance Technologies and changed its name to Allegiance, and now has acquired another company. They have grow from a few customers to more than 1,500 now are “the strongest ethics reporting company” in the industry.

It is appropriate that this company came out of the BYU Marriott School of Business, which ranks #1 in the country according to Business Week for both accounting and ethics.

This has been a great case study in how to startup a company, get some funding from business plan competitions, develop intellectual property, create a powerful advisory board (the best one I’ve ever seen for a startup company) and a strong management team, focus on sales and marketing, raise capital from angel investors, utilize the internet to generate leads (Allegiance presented this year at the MarketingSherpa B2B Lead Generation Summit), and to also grow through carefully selected acquisitions.

If you ever get a chance to hear Adam tell this story, take advantage of it. He has done so many things right. You will hear a lot more about this company in the future.

Need Help Selling A Great Domain Name!

I have purchased dozens of good domain names over the years, but haven’t sold a great one before. But one of my companies is trying to sell the directory.net domain name.

From your experience, what is the best way to sell a good domain name like this? Should we list it on various broker sites (like greatdomains.com), hire a professional broker, or what?

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Reading List for Internet Execs

I’m halfway done re-reading Permission Marketing by Seth Godin, the classic text (written in 1999) for internet marketers. This time, in good Tim Sanders fashion, I’m marking the book up like crazy and making it mine. Permission Marketing was very influential at MyFamily.com/Ancestry.com. Problem was, whenever I read a key book, I’d give my copy away and never see it again. When you haven’t pick up a book for 5 years, you forget all the details and just have some general notions about what you should be doing. I love getting back into the details of how internet-based permission marketing is revolutionizing advertising and will eventually overthrow the Interruption Marketing that was used to build all the great brands of the past. Godin spent millions of dollars on wasteful television advertising back when that was the only way to reach mass markets. But he has spent much of the last decade pioneering the use of the internet in marketing, and he shares his learning freely.

I have a recommending reading list for entrepreneurs, but I need to update it.

Books are so underrated. As Tim Sanders says in Love is the Killer App, 80% of your reading time should be spent with books.

I’m thinking of creating a curriculum for employees of Infobase Ventures companies, a reading list, as it were, for every major position in the company. There are a handful of books that I hope all our CEOs read, including The Art of the Start, Good to Great, First Break All the Rules, and Game of Work. I can think of a dozen critical readings (including MarketingSherpa summit transcripts) for all marketing employees.

Phil Windley (BYU CS Professor) told me the other day that when he mentors a graduate student in the lab, he provides him/her with all kinds of reading materials as part of the learning process. But once someone has a job, how much is invested in their ongoing training? Steve Jurvetson (my favorite VC) says we should embrace lifelong learning–how many companies help employees do this?

I think most companies neglect the development of intellectual capital among their employees.

Google may come closest. By requiring all employees to spend 20% of their time on a pet project (while Larry and Sergey keep a list of the top 100 most promising projects in the company) I think Google will unlock the creativity and promote the ongoing learning (we learn more when we’re applying what we learn, rather than just talking about it) of thousands of bright employees. This culture of learning and experimenting at Google will go far towards making the company one of the most valuable companies in the world.

In addition to a reading list of core books and documents, each position in a company should have its own set of keywords for Google News Alerts as well, so that key employees can stay up with the latest news on competitors, new technologies, marketing trends, etc.

Agilix Seeks to Revolutionize Education

Curt Allen, founder of Folio Corporation, and former CEO of MyFamily.com (chiefly responsible for our raising $90.5 million in venture capital) is at it again. (He’s also my brother and is responsible for getting me into electronic publishing and the computer industry 16 years ago–and I’m darn proud of him!)

His latest company, Agilix, is just 2 years old, is already profitable, and has just landed $4.35 million in venture capital in its effort to grow more aggressively and dramatically impact education worldwide. Agilix has the best team of software developers that I have ever seen–including most of the original Folio team–and they are churning out software products at a faster pace than you would think possible.

I still use Curt’s original software, Folio VIEWs, to maintain my personal knowledge-base, my storehouse of intellectual capital. I have more than 140 megabytes of content which I have typed or pasted into my personal infobase. I can instantly retrieve virtually anything from this infobase, including minutes from thousands of meetings I have attended and phone conversations which I have had. It is not overstating things to say I am addicted to Folio and consider my facility with it as one of the primary factors in my business success. (Maybe second only to the support of my awesome wife!)

Agilix is now selling a product called GoBinder which is designed for students and teachers as a repository of personal knowledge. In a classic viral marketing move, every educator in the world is being offered a free copy of GoBinder.

For the average person, the GoBinder software is far easier to use as a repository than Folio VIEWS. Anything you read online, any materials your teachers provide you with, any handouts you get from class, any web page or PDF file that you view, you can easily and permanently save into your GoBinder. You can add personal notes (if you own a Tablet PC) to any document. And then you can search and find everything instantly when you need it.

Agilix already has strategic partnerships with FranklinCovey, Microsoft, Blackboard, and many companies in higher education. This team is going to make a huge impact on how students and teachers manage, store and retrieve important information–something so fundamental to learning, but so often neglected.

I loved college, but one of my greatest regrets is that I can remember almost nothing of what I learned there. I know I took a lot of notes and I took a lot of tests, and I read a lot of books and only sold a very few back to the Bookstore when I was very poor. But I have almost no memory of the specific content that I learned in college. There is no way that I can instantly retrieve lecture notes from my honors Political Science professor David Magelby. I can’t review what Dr. Stan Taylor taught me about obtrusive and unobtrusive surveying techniques and statistical relevancy of polls.

What Agilix will do is insure that the tens of thousands of dollars that college students pay for college will result in a personal knowledge base that they can benefit from during their entire lifetime.

Like my 140 megabyte infobase that I started in 1990, which I consider one of my greatest assets, students who get addicted to GoBinder will experience the benefits of having a “near-photographic memory”.

Remember, “the faintest ink is sharper than the keenest memory”.

Imagine having instant access to hundreds of thousands of pages you have read and web pages you have viewed, overlaid with notes you have taken to remind you of what you thought when you first read them. And imagine being able to search for either your notes or the original text. Now imagine being able to share knowledge bases and notes with students and teachers. It’s not quite a mind-meld, but the collaboration and knowledge sharing possibilities are astounding.

To me, Agilix has the potential to unlock the power of memory for millions of its customers and thereby increase human productivity by an order of magnitude.

A great 19th century leader foresaw the need for preserving records and he counselled as follows:

“there is, or was, a vast knowledge, of infinite importance, which is now lost. What was the cause of this? It came in consequence of slothfulness, or a neglect to appoint a man to occupy a few moments in writing . . .”

You watch, and you will see amazing things from this company in the coming months and years.

Universities with Most Patents

In February 2004, the US Patent and Trademark Office released a preliminary list of the ten universities with the most patents in 2003.

Rank in 2003*
Number of Patents in 2003*
Organization*
(Rank in 2002)
(Number of Patents in 2002)
1
439
University of California
(1)
(431)
2
139
California Institute of Technology
(3)
(110)
3
127
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
(2)
(135)
4
96
University of Texas
(5)
(93)
5
85
Stanford University
(4)
(104)
6
84
University of Wisconsin
(6**)
(81)
7
70
Johns Hopkins University
(6**)
(81)
8
63
University of Michigan
(12)
(47)
9
61
Columbia University
(13)
(45)
10
59
Cornell University
(21**)
(35)
59
University of Florida
(15)
(42)

Businesses With Most Patents in 2003

From USPTO, January 2004

Top 10 Private Sector Patent Recipients for the 2003 Calendar Year

PreliminaryRank in 2003*
Preliminary# Patents in 2003*
Organization*
(Final Rank in 2002)
(Final Number of Patents in 2002)
1
3,415
International Business Machines Corporation
(1)
(3,288)
2
1,992
Canon Kabushiki Kaisha
(2)
(1,893)
3
1,893
Hitachi, Ltd.
(5)
(1,601)
4
1,786
Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd.
(6)
(1,544)
5
1,759
Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P.
(9)
(1,385)
6
1,707
Micron Technology, Inc.
(3)
(1,833)
7
1,592
Intel Corporation
(15)
(1,077)
8
1,353
Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V.
(16)
(842)
9
1,313
Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.
(11)
(1328)
10
1,311
Sony Corporation
(7)
(1,434)