STN vs GenomeQuest

… or why STN is going to fail. DGENE and USGENE recently introduced an option to limit sequence searches (BLAST) by % match. But I think it might just be too little to late for them.

For too long now STN has enjoyed the benefits of monopoly in the field of patent sequence searching. However, a new entrant in the domain threatens not only to end the monopoly but might also bring an end to STNs business in this field. GenomeQuest has quietly, but steadily has become the tool of choice for patent information searchers. More and more people, including some patent offices, have started accepting it as a standard. So why exactly is this happening??

Sequence searching on STN is complex, not-user friendly, and extremely expensive. On the other hand GenomeQuest offers a easy and intuitive interface for searching. Also, for searches with more than 50 odd patent results GenomeQuest becomes a more cost effective option, that too if you are searching on one database only through STN.

However, GenomeQuest is not without its share of problems. Their coverage so far is not comprehensive, and they do not have clear information on what patent-ranges (date or jurisdiction wise) are covered by them. Also, GenomeQuest lacks amount of filtering offered by STN.

The geek in me loves the STN for the impressive options, and here is what they need to do to get back ahead.

  1. Introduce a simple single combined search on all interfaces with automatic duplicate reduction. I understand this might not be possible in cases where the databases are supplied by different companies, like CAS Registry and DGENE, but you got to do it for business – so figure it out, will you!
  2. Reduce the cost and make the search affordable. Treat sequence searches (structure too if possible) as one search and charge a fixed amount (say USD 200-250) to do the search and display the results. No separate display charges.
  3. Keep up that brilliant customer service 🙂

So here. No go ahead, make the changes and be the best again STN!

PS: The views expressed above are mine alone and do not reflect those of my employer. Also, this post is not to defame any service.

Google’s Patent Search

The inevitable has happened. Google has finally launched a patent search engine. You can check it out at

For long I had wished that Google gives a better patent search option, and it has finally happened. Complete with advanced search options including assignee, inventor, IPC classes, and date limitations it is gonna be one heck of a tool for prior art search. I hope it does normal language search more effectively than concept search on PatentCafe.

Though the jurisdiction coverage is currently limited to granted US patents only, I am sure it would not be long before it adds other major Patent Offices like EPO and WIPO to it and published applications/pre-grant publications.

I sure see some competition for us in the future and also for IP service providers like Thomson Scientific.

What I now want to see is a mashup which combines Google Patent Search and Google Spreadsheets & Docs. That would be so much fun!!

PS: The official post is at

Lipitor Sucessor Fails!

Pfizer, world’s largest drug maker, got hammered badly in the NYSE on Monday following the disclosure that it had pulled the plug on its “to-be” blockbuster drug, torcetrapib. The stock lost 11% of its market value and wiped out USD 21 bn off its market cap.

Though some might consider this as excessive, this just goes to show what one drug can do to a company’s fortune. Pfizer banks on Lipitor for almost a quarter of its annual USD 51 bn sales and a higher percentage of its profits. With Lipitor patent coverage expiring in 2011 (thanks to Ranbaxy), torcetrapib was supposed to take its place and drive the company’s growth and profits. Pfizer had spent over a billion USD on the development of the drug and pulling it out at the last stage of development has prompted Moody to reconsider the downgrading of Pfizer’s rating from the present Aaa.

Also interesting is the increase in the share prices of its competitors, namely, Roche and Astra Zeneca. Many also expect that this failure might change the way big companies focus on blockbuster drugs to drive both topline and bottomline growth.

Patents 2.0?

Only recently the USPTO suggested a peer review mechanism to ensure that bad patents are minimized. Wikipatents, launched on August 28th, aims to contribute to “the US patent system by commenting on issued patents and, soon, pending patent applications.” This comes on the heels of the IBM, Red Hat, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard backed Community Patent Review plan of the New York Law School scheduled for a debut early next year.

A Web 2.0 website, complete with AJAX and Digg options, Wikipatents, provides you with entire patent data in HTML/PDF format and allows a registered user to write a title and abstract in a layman’s language. It also allows users to vote on cited references, add comments to existing ones and add new references. A new concept here is the market review which allows a user to estimate parameters like marketing and licensing potential of a patent.

While I am supportive of the entire exercise, I have my doubts about the efficacy of the system. First of all patents hardly ever directly impact the public and it is mostly big companies (holders of huge IP portfolio themselves) who are nowadays being sued left, right and center by the so-called patent trolls that are more worried about bad patents. I mean IBM and Microsoft themselves hold patent portfolios greater than many countries. I find no reason for people to sympathize with them.

Second, patent laws are so unclear and confusing that not many people know about them. Outside the patent attorneys I think hardly anyone would know their priority dates from filing dates.

Third, it is very difficult to gather relevant prior art without a very good understanding of the technology domain and access to proper patent and non-patent databases.

And lastly, relevant prior art is not easily available and finding it requires a lot of man hours and huge effort, else the patent examiners would have found them. Further, patent valuation is a largely inexact science at the best and requires huge amount of experience and prior research to arrive at any value for a patent.

So while it would be nice to get a community review of a patent, I for one would take any information provided with a pinch of salt, or combinations thereof.

PS: Also posted on Desicritics here.