IBM’s Watson is made of many parts: speech recognition, natural language processing, machine learning, and data mining. All of these factors were perfectly combined to beat Ken Jennings in Jeopardy, and now each of these components are slowly finding their way into other applications. Health plan company WellPoint, for example, is using Watson to investigate patient records to improve diagnosis, and in a self-referential,possibly universe-destroying twist, IBM itself is using Watson to help sell Watson (and other IBM products) to other companies. Now, using Watson’s data mining and natural language talents, IBM has created the Strategic IP Insight Platform, or SIIP, a tool that will revolutionize medicine — and perhaps patent trolling, too.
SIIP is tasked with scanning millions of pharmaceutical patents and biomedical journals to discover, analyze, and record any info pertaining to drug discovery. SIIP looks for the names of chemical compounds, related diagrams, the company and scientist who invented and works with the compounds, and any related words. So far, IBM has extracted 2.5 million chemical compounds from 4.7 million patents and 11 million journals between 1976 and 2000. From this vast pool of information, IBM applies analytics to create a truly terrifying database that can improve R&D productivity, secure competitive intelligence that other companies might not have, identify potential acquisition targets or collaborators, and more.
In the short term, though, IBM has donated its database of 2.5 million compounds to the “open chemistry” National Institutes of Health. This information will be doubly useful because many of the compounds come from older patents that have expired, meaning science institutes around the world now have unprecedented access to data that was previously very hard (or expensive) to obtain. There’s a video describing SIIP and IBM’s contribution to the NIH at the end of the story.
But why stop there? What if the next step is training a cousin of IBM Watson to parse every kind of patent for useful information?
Patents, in theory, are all about sharing novel ideas and discoveries in exchange for protection. It’s that utopian ideal of standing on the shoulders of giants; an enterprising individual should be able to build a company based on the work of his forebears, and then create or discover his own novel invention to perpetuate the cycle. In reality, that’s impossible because of the time, money, and effort required to pore through thousands or millions of patents and journals. Watson could change all that.
Then there’s battling the patent trolls. SIIP is almost entirely about analyzing the state of play and producing actionable analytics. If a malevolent patent troll targets your company, SIIP could help you find prior art, or perhaps secure a protective licensing deal with an IP behemoth like IBM. On the flip side, though, this powerful weapon could be used for the forces of evil: SIIP could also help patent trolls find companies that are weak enough to be forced into a lawsuit or licensing agreement.
Either way, with the inexorable march of big data and the seemingly never ending slew of frivolous patents, software or otherwise, it really was about time that someone attempted to make sense of the intellectual property morass. With almost 6,000 patents filed in 2010, some 25% more than the nearest competition (Samsung), and almost 50,000 patents in total — the most of any company in the world — who better to tackle the problem than Big Blue?
Read more about SIIP