Project PLuTO: making the lives of patent users easier

Published Aug 31, 2010 by Katja Mayer, Aalt Van De Kuilen

The EU research project PLuTO (EU-PSP-ICT) aims to overcome language barriers in the patent domain by providing an integrated, online translation tool, where several human experts (technical, legal, consultants) can take advantage of existing web-content and state-of-the-art, data-driven machine translation and information retrieval tools to collaboratively retrieve and translate patents. Patent information specialist Aalt van de Kuilen talks about the participation of the WON user group (NL) in such a large scale project and his expectations from the involvement of the European Patent Office.

IRF: How did the WON user group get involved in the project?

K: The idea of usability and quality feedback from actual users is central to this project. WON is well known and recognized in the patent community. We are very active in Europe. For instance WON stimulated the foundation of the European Confederacy of Patent Information User Groups and set up several training courses.

IRF: What are in your opinion the special strengths of the PLuTO consortium?

K: This consortium brings together formerly separated fields. People from the world of patent information work close with people in translation technology and information retrieval sciences. This combination of academic knowledge , e.g. how to do text retrieval in a new way, and of practical knowledge promises to be a stimulating environment.

We are very curious to participate, to witness and to co-shape the various benefits for the users when translating documents on the fly. The potential commercial impact of such systems is only interesting from our point of view insofar as it makes the lives of patent users easier, translations more reliable, and thus maybe increase the users productivity but also the users trust into the automatic systems

This is the first time that WON is part of such a huge evaluation and quality assessment effort. We should not forget that all WON members, who will be involved in the PLuTO project, have jobs and are doing this voluntary in their spare time. Each evaluation period the group will take 2-4 documents a month. We estimate that it will take 2 hours for each document to analyze its quality in detail. So this means 8, maybe 10 hours a month work for the WON experts. So we are happy that the evaluation work package is led by professionals, CrossLanguage, who also have the language and translation skills in combination with their evaluation tools, so that WON can concentrate on the evaluation of the technical content.

IRF: What kind of involvement of the EPO would you appreciate?

K: The EPO see the potential of this project, and they are very helpful. PLuTO is nevertheless an independent project, so the specific needs of the EPO (for their internal use) are just one input in the multiple requirements of the project. Certainly, from an economic point of view, the EPO could be one of the most important customers in the future, but still they are representing just one side of the patent usage situation. In adapting PLuTO to the needs of the EPO, which means to give their examiners access to documents in languages that have not been accessible to them before. That already is a very good use case scenario for PLuTO. But PLuTO has even more potential, and should not restrict its objectives to such a narrow field of application. PLuTO makes patent data accessible to end users everywhere. SMEs, that could otherwise not afford expensive patent searches and translations, finally could participate in this important pool of knowledge. This is also the aim of the Commission. Available translation tools are by far not sufficient, we do not get good enough automated translations, so anything that improves this situation is welcome by WON. We hope PLuTO will be a success, this is the reason why WON gives its full support for this project.

(July 2010)