Curtis Wadsworth, an alumni of the Pittsburgh Founder Institute, is the Founder and CEO of Three10 Solutions, which recently secured $250,000 in seed funding for developing a new patent search engine powered by artificial intelligence.
Called “Dorothy,” the search technology uses natural language processing, a branch of artificial intelligence enabling computers to understand the natural patterns in human language, in order to understand the complete scientific literature and patent landscape surrounding a particular invention.
Wadsworth founded Three10 Solutions in 2017 because he was frustrated with the existing processes for searching through patents and scientific literature using Booleans and semantic search engines. According to Wadsworth,
While these search engines are great for basic information, searching for references that describe scientific concepts that are often explained using industry jargon and acronyms is a nightmare.
As a patent attorney himself, Wadsworth is well acquainted with these challenges. After obtaining his PhD as a biochemist and his JD in law, Wadsworth spent 12 years working as an attorney at the Pittsburgh area firm Pepper Hamilton LLP, where he helped numerous clients to build valuable patent portfolios. Through his work in patent law, Wadsworth identified a big opportunity: to improve the entire process of patent searchability. So he set about developing a solution that would save attorneys time by improving patent search relevance.
The quest led him to Carnegie Mellon University’s Language Technology Institute, where today, the latest natural language processing and computational lingustics technologies are being used to develop the Dorothy A.I. search engine. Wadsworth recruited a group of Carnegie Mellon University students and professors who began working on the Dorothy 1.0 MVP in June of 2018.
The team made tremendous progress in a short period of time, building machine learning algorithms that solve challenges inherent to identifying only relevant search references. The students were recognized for their work, and awarded second prize in the CMU Masters of Science in Information Technology practicum competition.
'Prior Art' Search Steps into the Future
Existing patent search options do not work well for the patent attorneys who rely on them. Termed a ‘prior art’ search in the world of intellectual property law, a critical early phase for any inventor seeking patent protection is to first conduct their due diligence by searching for any existing patents that may conflict with the novelty being claimed by the new invention as a unique utility or design feature. Often, inventors start working closely with patent attorneys beginning at this stage, to make sure prior art searches are conducted as thoroughly as possible, in order to avoid any potential unintended IP conflicts in the future that could lead to costly litigation.
But prior art searches also incurs real costs, and American patentees spend millions each year on pre-patent filing searches. But as a business prospect in their own right, conducting patent searches is historically a loss-leader for patent attorneys, costing them more money in time spent searching for prior art than they actually bill to their clients for that particular initial service.
Three10 Solutions is developing Dorothy specifically to be used by the same experienced patent attorneys who already conduct these kinds of (currently unprofitable) searches for their inventor clients. Wadsworth says,
If the cost of doing searches for clients is a relatively low fee and/or fixed fee, the more [we at Dorothy] can automate the process with accurate tools, the better.
Current searches are difficult due to various factors, including unstructured scientific literature and intellectual property databases. Law firms lose thousands of dollars on searches in unbilled time and unrealized revenue. For this reason, searching today is often delegated to outsourced so-called “experts” at patent search firms, whose qualifications are almost entirely unknown.
Dorothy is unlike any patent search tool before it, because it uses natural language processing to run conceptual searches across similar inventions and related literature. Using a block of text, such as a product data sheet or a technical abstract, Dorothy searches for similar works across all published patents and literature, rather than depending on keywords alone to rank relevance, which are rarely sufficient for detailed analyses of technical topics full of jargon.
Dorothy is also unique because it learns more with each subsequent search, continually improving its precision by making associations among words, based on their use in context. Search results are scored by relevance, not ranked solely by word count of the keyword results returned from a query.
In identifying relevant prior art, Dorothy eliminates 20% of irrelevant search results, increasing margins for law firm users by up to 42%. By reducing the time spent searching, Dorothy creates competitive advantage in lowering costs for patent attorneys, allowing law associates to focus on projects with more value.
Three10 Solutions is currently seeking early stage partners interested in joining the project. Thanks to the $250k in seed funding, the company is continuing its progress apace on software development, product design, and customer validation, together with its existing Pittsburgh development partner, TrueFit.
Every entrepreneur recognizes that narrow Artificial Intelligences and machine learning applications are already poised to disrupt industries far and wide, blue collar and white collar alike: luckily for the patent attorneys though, the arrival of Dorothy is only going to make their lives easier. Keep an eye out for Dorothy’s upcoming official launch, expected to take place as soon as January 2019.
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