By Prithiv NatarajanA Washington trip was promised to the members of our Capstone team by our faculty advisor, Prof. Lee Fleming, under the conditions of collaborating with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and of course, leaping progress. Nothing more was revealed until we delved deeper into the problem at hand and the solution we were bringing to the table. Several Capstone teams were working on developing tools for strategy consulting for USPTO, Google and Siemens. The USPTO team consisted of Saurabh Parikh and myself, and we were focused on providing a strategic platform for streamlining the examination process of patents using Virtual Reality and Natural Language Processing.
Defining the scopeThe unique thing about Capstone projects at the Fung Institute is that we define the scope of the problem. (Thanks to Dilnoza Bobokalonova (M.Eng. ’19) and Scott Johnson (M.Eng. ’18) for giving us a good head start.) When brainstorming ideas, we were determined to work closely with the examiner segment of the USPTO. Usually, patents are issued with an application process, followed by the assignment of supervisors and many other managers who route the application to different classes based on the field of the patent. Finally, the patent reaches a sub-group of examiners who scrutinize it for its issuance. We were motivated by the vision that a VR tool could help visualize patents in a seamless fashion and the data points could help develop a technology space wherein an examiner could see the patents in an intuitive manner. Our final goal was to assign an appropriate examiner to patents thereby automating the existing routing system. We were making progress. Our next step in mind was to work closely with patent classification, and soon with examiner information (usually restricted by privacy policies) to understand how examiners are assigned.
USPTO conference on AI and IP PolicyThe night before our exhibition at the USPTO conference on AI and IP Policy, we prepared our VR sets and looked through patent data one last time. On the day, we were welcomed by the biting cold, as well as the USPTO team with our panels set with screens for the data and a separate place for the VR system. On receiving updates about our progress, Chief Economist Andy Toole and Nicholas Pairolero joined in with their ideas about using this tool to assist the examiners as well as classify patents using Natural Language Processing. Joining us were Google, IBM, as well as Bay Area’s Palantir and the National Science Foundation (NSF) showcasing exceptional work in NLP, automating the process of patent issuance. Moreover, their work has given us more ideas to bolster our future work in terms of the “UI/UX” of Virtual Reality. While we waited, our panel had attracted more and more people, thanks to our VR headset which made it look more futuristic than ever. We were glad to witness the excitement in the crowd. They were thrilled to listen to our presentation about VR, NLP and the usage of this tool at the USPTO. Even though our idea was aimed to assist the examiners, we were questioned right and left about how a machine could replace this long established and rather cumbersome routing process. The exciting crowd reminded me of the way I felt when I signed up for this Capstone. I felt that I was going to be a part of a startup whose potential customers were the examiners that we planned to sell our prototype to. I imagined this is what it would feel like to be an entrepreneur, showcasing the project and pilot testing it with people while receiving all kinds of valuable feedback. This feedback gave us more knowledge and perspectives and have stirred up the motivation in us to work even harder. A key moment of the conference and the exhibition came when the director of USPTO approached us. We convinced him to try on the VR headset and communicated our team’s ideas about the usage of such a tool. Something else that caught people’s attention was the MEng and the Fung Institute banners, along with flyers and sign-up sheets for more information about our project progress and the MEng program we are pursuing. We also received business cards from other scholars and corporations who expressed interest in collaborating with us. After a long day, we were asked to join a few people from the USPTO to discuss some ideas over dinner. We could not thank our Capstone team, as well as our faculty advisor Lee Fleming, enough for this opportunity. I was hoping to knick a smart snapshot with the White House or throw in a clever House of Cards reference in my banter with the audience, but our schedule was tight. I did, however, manage to eat some ribs. Acknowledgment: Guan-Cheng Li, Saurabh Parikh, Alfonso Lobos Ruiz, Google and Siemens team, Dilnoza Bobokalonova, Scott Johnson, Prof. Lee Fleming, USPTO and Asad Sultan Prithiv Natarajan is a practiced data analyst with a demonstrated history of working in the industry and academia. He is currently pursuing a Master of Engineering (MEng) — Bioengineering focused on Computational Biology and Engineering Tech Leadership from the University of California, Berkeley. Connect with Prithiv. Project Summary Tools for Strategy Consulting: USPTO Team: Saurabh Parikh [BIOE], Prithiv Natarajan [BIOE] Advisors: Lee Fleming [IEOR] & Andrew Toole, Nicholas Pairolero, and James Forman [USPTO] The established routing process to a patent’s approval from its issuance, at the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office), is cumbersome and time-consuming. What makes the process arduous is the involvement of many supervisors between its initial and final stage. We intend to use our technology to make this routing process more efficient by providing a Virtual Reality platform to allow a seamless transition in the life of a patent from its issuance to its approval for the examiners at the patent office. Our virtual reality platform provides an accurate visual representation of a patent under consideration surrounded by patents addressing similar technologies and allows for an exhaustive analysis of documents using Natural Language Processing. We intend to assist the examiners by suggesting patents pertaining to topics they specialize in by considering information and data gathered through years by the USPTO.
Applying virtual reality to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) was originally published in Berkeley Master of Engineering on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.