Long before the term ‘Big Data’ even surfaced in the patent world, a visionary figure with a curious mind committed his early career to seeing how far patent data analysis could be pushed to its limits given the technology available at the time.
What is equally remarkable is the number of patent information projects that Dr. Michael Dixon contributed his talents towards developing, and how his determination saw them come to commercial fruition and be used by the world’s leading patent-driven organizations and the specialist patent information professionals within them.
Dr. Michael Dixon joined Derwent Publications Ltd. (which subsequently became Thomson Reuters and recently Clarivate Analytics) back in the 1960’s as a chemical coder for the drug literature service, Ringdoc. He quickly became responsible for Derwent’s patent services. Following discussions with ICI Ltd., the British chemical corporation, Dr. Dixon spearheaded a project to adopt ICI’s internal polymer information system, which became the ’Plasdoc’ product in 1966. This was the beginning of the Derwent Central Patents Index (CPI) service that Dr. Dixon helped to develop over the next several years and see launched in 1970.
This was a time of significant transition in data handling, starting with the migration away from the old punch cards to the new computerized information storage and retrieval systems. Dr. Dixon was heavily involved in Derwent’s automation efforts in this regard and also worked on providing breakthrough new capabilities for searching chemical structures represented by generic ‘Markush’ formulae that had not been possible before.
Always with an eye towards innovation and improvement, Dr. Dixon was quick to realize the potential of the rich source of technical information latent within patent data for statistical analysis. Around 1980, his inspiration came following a visit to the USPTO. Some patent examiners there had been given the remit to look into patent trends for forecasting PTO workloads, and Dr. Dixon immediately started thinking how patent data could be efficiently and effectively harvested and analyzed to help forecast tomorrow’s technological developments. Using the extensive Derwent patent data as a resource, Dr. Dixon embarked on a PhD study at City University that culminated in a groundbreaking thesis entitled ‘Statistical Studies of Patents Literature’. With the backing of the rest of the product development team at Derwent, including Prof. Charles Oppenheim and Mike Pope, work quickly started on developing a commercial product to analyze patent data and which would become known as PATSTAT. Dr. Dixon’s initiative and PhD work on the subject, diving into algorithms for analyzing and evaluating the data, as well as overcoming the considerable technical computing limitations, enabled the unveiling of PATSTAT and its widespread use by industrial organizations.
The IPI-Award announcement was made at the International Patent Information Conference, IPI-ConfEx in Rome, Italy, on March 6, 2017 by Ms. Lucy Antunes, Chair of the International Selection Board, stating that: “Dr. Dixon’s extensive contributions have been fundamental to both Markush coding and the use of statistical techniques to analyze patent data, being the precursor for the expansive field of patent analytics that we use every day across the world.” In addition, IPI-Award founder and sponsor, Mr. Ford Khorsandian, President of Technology & Patent Research (TPR) International, highlighted the purpose of the IPI-Award to: “…allow us the time to pause and reflect on the great achievements of our industry’s champions, and to gain inspiration from how they have made their ideas come to life. Dr. Dixon is no exception in this regard.”
A celebratory dinner at the Brancaccio Palace in Rome gave the opportunity to hear from Dr. Dixon directly as he shared his reflections. Congratulatory messages were heard from: Dr. Monika Hanelt on behalf of patent information professionals; Ms. Ann Chapman (Dr. Dixon’s former colleague at Derwent) of Minesoft, Ltd., a leading web-based patent information and analytics platform; and Ford Khorsandian, with a message from CEO Jay Nadler from Clarivate Analytics.
The IPI Award was established in 2000 to recognize key individuals whose dedication has had a significant and lasting impact on patent information. Sponsor TPR International is a world-leading search firm with 20 years of expertise in successfully completing thousands of patent searching projects in all areas of technology for validity, infringement, patentability and other purposes, as well as providing tailored searching and analysis solutions – www.TPRInternational.com
For further information and photographs of the presentation ceremony at the Brancaccio Palace in Rome: