THE U.S. CONSTITUTION MANDATES A PUBLIC PATENT DATABASE
The SEC EDGAR database was doing great, but the Patent office was still
dragging their heels on making their data available to the public.
There were a few alternatives around, such as IBM's Patent server
(now Delphion.Com), but it seemed that the Patent database, specifically
mentioned in the United States Constitution as a tool for promoting
the spread of knowledge, should be on-line.
We decided to take matters into our own hands. If the Patent office
couldn't put it's data on-line, we certainly could. We spent
several months building a system for serving patents and trademarks,
but for good measure we wrote a letter to the Vice President (and
bcc'd the New York Times). It seemed
like a waste of time for us to run a system for a couple of years and
then engage in a food fight with the U.S. Government to take it over.
We made that point and suggested that if the U.S. government would
simply announce in the next 60 days that they would release the
patent database to the public, we would all be spared a lot of trouble.
On June 25, two days before our 60-day timer expired and our system
was almost ready to go live, Commissioner Lehman gave a speech
to the American Bar
Association saying that the government would be releasing the full text of
all patents on the Internet. Press releases were issued
and comments were
solicited. The data magically appeared.
Unfortunately, the data was only made available on a search engine
with limited capacity and no bulk archives for downloading, making
it hard for others to build their own search engines.
As a partial remedy,
we went back in a couple of years later and post 17 years