Many millions of patents have been issued by governments around the world. Much has been standardized, so some of the hard issues involve historical patents. There is no standard global site to search broadly and internationally for patents before 1900. Wikidata can be the site which makes it feasible, eventually.
Goals: Standardize on sets of fields/columns and category systems -- ontologies -- for utility patents, trademarks, design patents, plant patents, and related kinds of records. Upload some records of the many millions that exist; Wikidata can at least index the many kinds of .
Magnitude of the subjectEdit
This source says there were 1.25 million patents granted in 2015 and the numbers are growing. Worldwide there have been 20-50 million granted, and in principle Wikidata can at least index these, that is, point to a source about each one.
I (User:Econterms)have a specific interest in the patents from before 1923. Working on these avoids copyright and intellectual property issues. I've invited specialists at WIPO, the UN organization that manages modern-day patent rights, for their advice and/or support of this effort. Some of their data could be uploaded eventually, and on the wiki side we might be able to set up automatic links analogous to the authority control templates so as to get immediately from a Wikipedia article about an individual to their patent documents across countries, a service not offered very well elsewhere for historic patents.
Historic patents can differ from modern standard patents along these lines, and probably others:
- Historic patents may have been issued by governments that do not now exist, and therefore do not have standard two-letter codes. E.g. Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the German and Italian states that existed before those nations unified to their current form.
- Some of the earliest patents did not refer to technologies or inventions at all, but to monopolies granted, e.g. by the British crown, or monopolies on the rights to import some particular kind of thing. (To do: link to an example here.) There is a timeline of legal standardization, notably the 1883 Paris Convention and the later deal that created WIPO as the global standardizer and regulator. (We'll distill that here perhaps or link to it.)
- Patents have had various term lengths, different from the modern standard. Term length could be included in the Wikidata as an attribute, or left out to be inferred by historical rules. There was sometimes complexity since a patent-holder would have to pay a renewal fee, sometimes annually, to keep a patent in force. Details of this history aren't usually valuable and seem too complicated for Wikidata, but we could set a standard for how to store it in special cases.
- Text and images from patent documents published before 1923 are no longer copyrighted (if they ever were) and rarely have any legally relevant claims. We can treat them a little more informally and directly, e.g. just mass-upload data about them.
- Current patents are a highly computer-enabled business. For U.S. patents since 1976, the US patent office has massively computerized them and offers special search capabilities, and professional patent agents and attorneys use specific highly-capable proprietary information systems to search for relevant patents. (to do: add explanation and examples) Searches are oriented toward either (a) figuring out the scope of a potential new patent, versus what it should cite as prior art, or (b) scanning the environment to see how a technology is evolving. Such searches are usually oriented to patents less than 20 years old (17 years is the standard term), or sometimes back to the 1970s, but patents earlier than that are thought of as ancient history. Yet, they are useful history, and Wikidata can focus on that without interference.
History of the project and its scope/definitionEdit