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PATENT-SURFING COMES TO THE WEB

U.S. PATENT DATA ARE making their debut on the World Wide Web--at bargain rates. The full text of patents has long been available from such online services as Lexis/Nexis, owned by Britain's Reed Elsevier, and the Dialog division of Knight-Ridder Inc. But these databases are housed on mainframe computers not connected to the Internet, and searching them can cost more than $100 an hour. The cheaper, Web-based offerings are from France Telecom's Questel-Orbit Inc. in McLean, Va., and from the Chemical Abstracts Service of the American Chemical Society in Columbus, Ohio.

For Questel-Orbit's QPAT-US, the first password runs $1,995. That allows unlimited access for a year to all 1.8 million U.S. patents issued in the past 20 years. Additional passwords may be purchased at substantial discounts. The Chemical Abstracts Service's Chemical Patents Plus--which despite its name, includes all U.S. patents--doesn't carry an up-front charge. And it allows free searches back to 1974. But getting the patent number and front page costs $1.25. Downloading the full text is $3.75.

The newcomers' Web offerings aren't as comprehensive as the full-priced services. For instance, Lexis/Nexis constantly updates a patent's assignee. Still, they should find a sizable niche.

EDITED BY OTIS PORT By Peter Coy


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Updated June 14, 1997 by bwwebmaster
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