You're an engineer trying to work out a solution to a complicated problem. You have been at this problem for the last three days. You've been leveraging your expertise in innovative methods and other disciplined processes, but you still haven't gotten to where you need to be.
Imagine if you could forego the last thirty hours of work, and instead you could have reached a novel solution in just 30 minutes. In addition to having saved yourself nearly a week of time, you would have not only arrived at a solution to your vexing engineering issue, but you also would have prepared all the necessary documentation to apply for intellectual property (IP) protection for it.
This is now what's available from IP.com with its latest suite of workflow solutions dubbed IQ Ideas PlusTM. IQ Ideas Plus makes it easy for inventors to submit, refine, and collaborate on ideas that are then delivered to the IP team for review. This new workflow solution is built on IP.com's AI natural language processing engine, Semantic GistTM, which the company has been refining since 1994. The IQ Ideas Plus portfolio was introduced earlier this year in the U.S. and has started rolling out worldwide.
“The great thing about Semantic Gist is that it is set up to do a true semantic search," explained Dr. William Fowlkes, VP Analytics and Workflow Solutions at IP.com and developer of the IQ Ideas Plus solution. “It works off of your description. It does not require you to use arcane codes to define subject matters, to use keywords, or rely on complex Boolean constructs to find the key technology that you're looking for."
The program is leveraging AI to analyze your words. So, the description of your problem is turned into a query. The AI engine then analyzes that query for its technical content and then using essentially cosine-similarity-type techniques and vector math, it will search eight or nine million patents, from any field, that are similar to your problem.
“Even patents that look like they're in a different field sometimes have some pieces, some key technology nuggets, that are actually similar to your problem and it will find those," added Fowlkes.
In a typical session, you might spend 10 – 15 minutes describing your problem on the IQ Ideas Plus template, which includes root cause analysis, when you need to fix a specific problem, or system improvement analysis, when you are asked to develop the next big thing for an existing product. The template lists those elements that you need to include so that you describe all the relevant factors and how they work together.
The template involves a graphical user interface (GUI) that starts by asking you to name your new analysis and to describe the type of analysis you'll be conducting: “Solve a Problem", or “Improve a System".
After you've chosen to 'Solve a Problem', for example, you are given a drop-down menu that asks you what field this problem resides in, i.e., mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, etc. The next drop-down menu then asks what sub-group this field belongs to, i.e., aerospace. After you've chosen your fields, you write a fairly simple description of your problem and ask for a solution (How do I fix…?).
You then press the button, and three to five seconds later, you're provided two lists – “Functional Concepts" and “Inventive Principles". One can think of the Functional Concepts list as a thorough catalogue of all the prior art in this area. What really distinguishes the IQ Ideas Plus process is the “Inventive Principles" list, which is abstractions from previous patents or patent applications.
The semantic engine returns ordered lists with the most relevant results at the top. Of course, as you scroll down through the list, after the first 10 to 20, the results become less and less relevant.
What will often happen is that as you work through both the “Functional Concepts" and “Inventive Principles" lists you begin to realize that you've omitted elements to your description, or that your description should go in a slightly different direction based on the results. While this represents a slightly iterative process, each iteration is just as fast as the first. In fact, it's faster because you no longer need to spend 10 minutes writing down your changes. All along the process, there's a workbook, similar to an electronic lab notebook, for you to jot down your ideas.
As you jot down your ideas based on the recommendations from the AI, it will offer you the ability to run a concept evaluation, telling you whether the concept is “marginally acceptable" or “good", for example. You can use this concept evaluation tool to understand whether you have written your problem and solution in a way that it's unique or novel, or whether you should consider going back to the drawing board to keep iterating on it.
When you get a high-scoring idea, the next module, called “Inventor's Aide," helps you write a very clear invention disclosure. In many organizations, drafting and submitting disclosures can be a pain point for engineers. Inventor's Aide makes the process fast and easy providing suggestions to make the language clear and concise.
With the IQ Ideas Plus suite of tools, all of the paperwork (i.e., a list of related or similar patents, companies active in the field, a full technology landscape review, etc.) is included as attachments to your invention disclosure so that when it gets sent to the patent committee, they can look at the idea and know what art is already there and what technologies are in the space. They can then vet your idea, which has been delivered in a clear, concise manner with no jargon, so they understand the idea you have written.
The cycle time between a patent review committee looking at your disclosure and you getting it back can sometimes take weeks. IQ Ideas Plus shortens the cycle time, drives efficiencies and reduces a lot of frustration on both ends of the equation. Moving more complete disclosures through the system improves the grant rate of the applications because the tool has helped document necessary legwork during the process.
“IQ Ideas does a great job of both helping you to find novel solutions using the brainstorming modules, and then analyzing those new ideas using the Inventor's Aide module," Fowlkes said.
Fowkes argues that this really benefits both sides of the invention process – product development engineers and IP teams. For the engineers, filing invention disclosures is a very burdensome task. For the patent review committees or IP Counsel, getting clear, concise disclosures, free of jargon and acronyms and complete with documentation of prior art attached, makes the review faster and more efficient.
Professor Greg Gdowski, Executive Director of the Center for Medical Technology & Innovation, at the University of Rochester, deployed IQ Ideas Plus to his students earlier this year. According to Gdowski, IQ Ideas Plus is very valuable.
“We train our students in carrying out technology landscapes on unmet clinical needs that are observed in our surgical operating rooms. Despite our best efforts, the students always miss technologies that are out there in the form of patent or patent applications. IQ Ideas Plus not only helped us brainstorm additional solutions, but it also revealed existing technologies that would have complicated the solution space had they not been identified."
Gdowski said another important advantage of using IQ Ideas Plus was that it helped the team understand the distribution of patents and companies working on technology related to a specific unmet clinical need (or problem). “IQ Ideas Plus gives engineers a new lens by which to evaluate solutions to problems and to execute intellectual property landscapes," Gdowski added.
IQ Ideas Plus enables faster idea generation and collaboration, more complete documents for submission and review so the best ideas surface faster allowing great ideas to get to market faster.
Greg Gdowski is the IEEE Region 1 Director-Elect Candidate.
Dr. William Fowlkes is an IEEE Senior Member.
Dexter Johnson is a contributing editor at IEEE Spectrum, with a focus on nanotechnology.