The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), together with the recently created Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (COECI), launched the USPTO Innovation Challenge last week, offering $50,000 in prizes for specialized algorithms that can “help bring the 7 million patents presently in the patent archive into the digital age.” In particular, the USPTO Innovation Challenge is seeking new algorithms to automatically identify and locate specific elements within patent documents, as part of a broader effort to improve the patent examination process. According to Robynn Sturm Steffen, a Senior Advisor in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP):
Approximately half-a-million U.S. patents are filed by inventors, entrepreneurs, and businesses each year. The Challenge is part of a broader USPTO endeavor to modernize the information technology used by the Office’s patent examiners.
Most patent examiners must look at hundreds of pages of documentation for each patent they examine, so many aspects of the new system are designed to reduce the amount of page flipping, improve readability, and allow for annotation of the documents. This includes the need for a better way for patent examiners to view and parse the detailed drawings that are often critical to determining whether an invention merits a patent [more after the jump].