Patent Lens

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Patent Lens is an independent, public-good global resource for increasing patent transparency.


An initiative of Cambia


Richard Jefferson:


"With funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, in 1999 CAMBIA began to develop an integrated, full-text database of patents in the agricultural sciences. Under the initial guidance of Dr. Carol Nottenburg, then CAMBIA’s Director of Intellectual Property, the CAMBIA IP Resource became a prominent web-based data tool to investigate patents in this field. Over the years, both the ambitions and the capabilities of the CAMBIA Patent Lens team grew,14 and PatentLens has now become one of the world’s foremost cost-free resources for full-text searching and understanding patents in many jurisdictions and in all classifications. Patent Lens ( harmonizes, parses and presents worldwide patent and technology data in a full-text searchable and highly integrated manner.

However, it is much more than a patent database. PatentLens is an integrated response to the massive complexity and opacity of the world of patents. It is intended as a public platform to enable many actors to investigate and share analysis of relevant IP issues, and to foster community involvement in overseeing and guiding the patent system.

The patent system has grown so rapidly and become so complex and opaque that even the most privileged and skilled clergy of patent law can only parse a tiny area of specialized knowledge, and that tiny area changes daily. This fragmentation has made it almost impossible to thoughtfully and factually assess the consequences of action and inaction: How can the consequences of policy be modeled or validated when patents are treated as fungibles? How can efficient progress in sectors critical to social progress, such as health, environment, and agriculture, be secured when the rights are tangled in a skein of patents?

The goal of the Patent Lens is to use the power of informatics and community to harmonize and make transparent the world of patents, so that thoughtful individuals, institutions and agencies can guide thoughtful and humane reform of the innovation system and to spur efficient and socially relevant innovation. This is an essential platform if we are to make use of the patent system itself to expand and protect a technology commons, and to collectively target breakthrough inventions, work-arounds and “work-beyonds”15 and to make thoughtful and informed partnerships." (


"CAMBIA’s Patent Lens includes one of the world’s most comprehensive fulltext searchable databases of patents; cost-free and available to anyone, it has a seven-year history of continued growth in features and power. It incorporates the full text of applications and granted patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCV) database, European and Australian jurisdictions, and their status and family relationships in many dozens of countries. Its fast and user-friendly search engine has a nuanced interface and presents common and harmonized data structures so that these jurisdictions can be searched simultaneously.

The Patent Lens is becoming an increasingly important resource as the feerequiring “value-added” patent data providers continue to consolidate. Because no national patent office has taken on the task of harmonizing collections over many jurisdictions, the role of the “patent clergy’ remains central, and the gatekeeper functions of the information providers remain onerous. National and regional patent offices provide quite variable free patent searching; some are appallingly primitive while others, like the European Patent Office, are quite sophisticated. Patent offices, however, have complex relationships with commercial providers such as Thomson, which actually provide the patent offices with integrated searching functions for their own in-house use. To further complicate the situation, commercial providers have been calling for a reduction in the role of national patent offices as “value added” providers. The need for a public good provider has never been greater.

Patent Lens focuses on user-adaptability, integration, annotation capability and availability to the world community for free; these key features render it particularly helpful in efforts to restore public good and transparency as the raison d’etre of intellectual property systems." (

More Information

  1. See our entries on Open Source Biotechnology and Biological Open Source