Design Assistant for Semantic Comparison of Intellectual Property
A research programme to develop a computer design tool that highlights potential patent infringement of an emerging design has been funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and is supported by two major international companies, Crown Technology and Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs. New advances that identify potential patent conflict and prompt novel design solutions are of considerable interest to industry.
The project will focus on function-geometry inventive principles, common in mechanical engineering, adapting a CAD system to store internal model annotations of the emerging design for comparison with a patent database that has also been annotated. Patent infringement will be statistically quantified and depicted in a visualisation superimposed on the emerging design, thereby supporting the designer to create innovative solutions. A mock-up of the Design Assistant is shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Mock-up of Design Assistant embedded in CAD system
Current patent retrieval systems employ text-based search methods and there is a need for image-based semantic search approaches to be developed for designers to use. Functional representations, which are typically schematic design diagrams showing the relationship of functions and effects between elements of a design, are a form of semantics and are used by some commercial innovation systems but not for patent comparison. In addition, functional representations have not been extensively applied to designs that rely on novel geometric features.