Celebrating 60 years: Explore the evolution of Derwent World Patents Index

Derwent World Patents Index™ (DWPI™) turns 60 this year. In this blog, Ed White, Senior Director and Principal Analyst, celebrates how DWPI evolved from a newsletter of patent abstracts into an integral part of the global patent system.

With 22 years of experience in the intellectual property industry, Ed White is devoted to helping people capture the right insights from the world’s patent data. Ed has developed new methods of analyzing innovation ecosystems and advised hundreds of corporations, institutions and governments with technology data investigations.

Today, Ed continues to look for new ways to help innovators, strategists and IP professionals use patent data to make more informed decisions. With over two decades spent closely working with Derwent™, Ed shares his thoughts on the evolution of DWPI.


Let’s start with a fundamental question. What is the origin story of Derwent World Patents Index (DWPI)?

The origin of DWPI goes back to 1950s London when Derwent’s founder, Montague (Monty) Hyams, was given the job of reporting on patents coming out of his employer’s competition. He quickly discovered it was an incredibly painful undertaking. Patents can be extraordinarily hard to read in a short amount of time making it difficult to find relevant information quickly among a pile of patents. Monty began to summarize patents into short abstracts that would give his employer the information they needed to decide which patents were worth investigating in detail.

At the same time, he discovered that patents published in the United Kingdom were also being published in Belgium — but six months earlier, assuming the patents were co-filed in both countries. He would take a ferry over to the Belgian patent office once a month and write out these abstracts. In doing so, he created the idea that reading one member of the patent family gives you an indication of the rest.

Soon after, Monty started writing a newsletter with his abstracts. Within a few years he had so many subscribers that he went full time. From there, Derwent was born, named after his home where he worked.


Knowing the origin of DWPI, it seems like the name is a misnomer. We emphasize “Index” in the name Derwent World Patent Index, but we don’t mention the word “abstract”. Is there more value in the abstracts or the index?

Within Derwent World Patents Index, the word “index” is used as a synonym for database. Yet, to call DWPI a patent database is an understatement since it’s so much more. It is a database of technical ideas that records where, how and when they were patented. It tells you what was invented, what use that invention is intended to be put towards and, crucially, it tells you why it was invented and the advantage it provides.

To boil the definition down to as few words as possible, DWPI is the great library of human invention.


DWPI has evolved tremendously since its inception. How has it changed over the last 60 years?

The biggest change to DWPI is the sheer scale and pace at which new inventions are being patented. Today, we add almost four million new inventions to DWPI each year. That is around a thousand times more volume than the team was handling at the start. Of course, the capability to handle this data at scale is achievable thanks to the advancements of automation, the incredible editorial processes and the dedication of many experts and technologists.

With large volumes of data, we can apply large-scale statistical analysis and evaluate macro trends in global innovation. We can see how these trends are evolving in different geographical regions. Our annual report, Top 100 Global Innovators™, provides a taste of what this analysis can achieve.


Looking at DWPI today, what unique value does it provide?

First and foremost, DWPI categorizes patents by invention family. This greatly deduplicates the number of documents to review. Secondly, our teams read and analyze each invention before summarizing it in a clear and consistent way using standardized language. This allows our clients to review many more inventions than they could otherwise, and it also makes it easier for them to retrieve relevant publications using keyword searches.

We index the world’s inventions so that patent researchers can quickly find those related to a particular technology category. This indexing is unique because it is driven by industry needs and customer feedback. For example, I remember a client that told us how time consuming it was to manually review images to determine if a patent was specific to a front or top load washer. So, we created specific categories for that purpose.

And lastly, we cleanse the data. From spelling mistakes in company names to incorrect classification codes, these little errors create havoc. They can cause researchers to miss relevant inventions when performing patent searches.

For example, when using the International Patent Classification (IPC), G10 and G01 are commonly mistyped. G10 refers to musical instruments and G01 is related to measurement instrumentation. When these get mixed up, our algorithm engines can find the error and flag any misclassifications to an analyst for correction.

Download the DWPI fact sheet: The world’s patent data, curated and simplified


Can you share some of the client projects you’ve worked on across your 20-year career?

My favorite projects are those that have us looking for groundbreaking innovation, like DNA sequences as a data storage.

But the effect our work has is also interesting. For example, we performed a technology scouting exercise for a consumer goods company that ended with surprising results. The customer wanted Clarivate to identify an academic partner that could improve a specific process. Instead, using DWPI, we were able to discover a small company in the United States that was already doing what the client was planning. Six months later, we saw in the news that they acquired the small company, having not been aware of their existence before the scouting exercise.

We also work with governments to help them set and evaluate science and industrial policy based on patent data and analysis. We used DWPI to look at areas within their economy where they likely have research strength and may want to fund more.

Ultimately, these examples center around how we help our customers discover what the community of scientists and engineers already collectively know. Without DWPI, this knowledge stays hidden because it is fragmented deep at that individual, incremental improvement level.

Read the Derwent case study: Establishing a new IP strategic planning group


40 patent offices currently use the Derwent World Patents Index. How has DWPI built up so many patent office subscribers?

Patent offices use DWPI for the same reason that all of our customers do — because of its clarity. DWPI recalls more records more accurately than if you were looking at raw patent data alone. Our patent analysts are skilled at distilling the core features covered in inventions and summarizing these into abstracts which vastly improve precision and recall.

DWPI is truly a systemic part of how the global patent system works. It allows patent offices to access almost every innovation globally in the same language, with a controlled terminology. With DWPI, examiners can find more relevant prior art more quickly. This helps them make better decisions about a patent’s novelty, and review a higher number of applications. In a way, it is difficult to be a patent office without DWPI.


How do you think DWPI will evolve in the future? Are there areas of untapped potential for DWPI?

With advances in AI and language modelling, we will be able to perform new types of predictive analysis about how certain technologies are likely to evolve. All of this potential for AI is available to us because of the countless hours of human intelligence and expertise we have captured from the thousands of technologists that have created DWPI in the last 60 years.


Are there any final thoughts you would like to share about DWPI?

DWPI hitting its 60-year anniversary is a remarkable achievement. It has evolved from a newsletter of patent abstracts into an integral part of the global patent system. This is a testament not just to our product innovation but to our customers as well.

We have customers in 2023 that were subscribing to Monty Hyams’ newsletter in the 1950s and 1960s. These are cherished partners for Clarivate. They have helped us as we’ve helped them. At 60 years of age, DWPI is  the effort of our staff and our customers as they guide us in what to do.


DWPI can help your organization navigate the global innovation landscape. To learn more, visit Celebrating 60 years of DWPI

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