Would a TTO with Quadruple the National Average for Invention Disclosures and Licenses use Search Real Fast? YES!

Yes, because it saves their Tech Transfer Office a lot of time!!

Jan 24, 2016 –Pete Fenner

In 2014, the WPI Director of Intellectual Property and Innovation, Todd Keiller, published an article for a webinar titled “6 Myths about Academia and Innovation”. Todd referred to some statistics about WPI that should cause any TTO executive to pause and ponder. Here is what he shared about WPI:

For a university of its size:

  • WPI should produce 8 to 10 disclosures per year, but in the first half of 2014 they had 16!
  • WPI should sign 2 license agreements per year, but in the first half of 2014 they signed 4 licenses!
  • WPI has 4-5 times the national average for the number of new invention disclosures and licenses!

Certainly, a primary reason why WPI is so successful is related to a university curriculum that is project based and these projects generate a lot of intellectual property. The WPI commitment to innovation was one of the main reasons we approached them in 2014 to be a test user for our new service… then called Patents Real Fast and now called Search Real Fast. Our hope was that Search Real Fast would be viewed not just as a TTO tool, but also as a perfect compliment to this innovative spirit and be used by both students and faculty to continue to stimulate researcher success.

Following is a brief summary of the Search Real Fast and WPI story.

My initial WPI contact forwarded our request to Todd Keiller, Director of the WPI IP and Innovation Office. Since Search Real Fast is software as a service delivered over the web, it took only a minute for Todd to register. Then, in an email response, Todd said, “I pasted the abstract for one of our patents into Search Real Fast, and did a patent search. The search results screen showed that WPI patent as the first in the list of results!” Todd concluded, “I will use this a lot!”

At the end of May, 2014, I had a meeting with Todd in his office at WPI. During that meeting, Todd made a statement to me along the line of:

“It used to take me 30 or 40 minutes to do a preliminary patent search on a new project. Now using Search Real Fast (formerly called Patents Real Fast and PRF Query), I can do the preliminary evaluation in about five (5) minutes!”

I asked Todd what function in Search real Fast saved most of this time. He said that the extraction of 20 important keywords from a project description, performed in seconds by Search Real Fast, was the biggest time saver. He did not have to guess at a lot of different keyword query strings for Google Patents to get useful, relevant search results. Search Real Fast immediately gave him the initial 20 keywords that got him to the right ballpark.

During that same meeting, Todd related the story of a student who came to his office with an idea for an antimicrobial compound. Todd showed him how to register for Search Real Fast and then the student uploaded his project description and used the keywords to search a patent database. The results returned eight patents using the same compounds. The student was crushed to discover his idea wasn’t unique! Todd, though, encouraged him to try alternative compounds. Before that student left his office 10 minutes later, he had identified and explored one different compound from his initial three used in the eight patents. A search for this new, combination showed no existing patents or applications. Further, the student thought the combination had a good chance of success in the lab.

From this incident and several other encounters with students that Todd introduced to Seach Real Fast, he realized that Search Real fast was easy and accurate enough for students and faculty to do their own initial prior-art searching without any training. Todd and the WPI Gordon Library actively encouraged students to use Search Real Fast in their own projects to explore the Intellectual Property value of their ideas.

In March of 2015, I had a telephone call with Todd to discuss several new features we were planning to add to our service. It was a time that Todd called the “WPI March Madness”; where students make their final presentations on their projects. I commented that, from our log statistics, Todd had not used Search Real Fast for the last six months and asked him why. His response was:

“The students are doing such a good job searching using Search Real Fast, I don’t have to do any preliminary prior-art searching myself!”

At that time, over 70 WPI students and staff had registered to use the WPI campus-wide Search Real Fast subscription to search for technology prior-art related to their projects. Todd has included a link to the service right into the WPI invention disclosure form. Since then, many more have subscribed.

By “rolling out Search Real Fast throughout the university and featuring it through the Library, where the librarians routinely assist students and faculty in doing prior art searches”, WPI has saved significant time for their IP and Innovation Office. Now, that office has more time to focus on securing IP protection and licensing more of their most promising ideas.

The “WPI Plan” offers students not just an innovative college-level STEM education. It also supplies students with the tools and environment to nurture and develop their unique and novel ideas into commercially viable Intellectual Property. We’re proud that Search Real Fast is part of the “WPI Plan”.


Pete Fenner, President

Search Real Fast