From an IPBiz post in May 2005:
Lest we forget, the USPTO opposed the idea of a database.
From the May 4, 1998 NYT -->
"The outcome with the Patent and Trademark Office was not as
successful," Mr. Malamud wrote in his letter. The agency, he said, refused to change its position.
Officials at the Patent and Trademark Office responded that the
agency was in a difficult position because it is self-financed and that making raw patent data available for wholesale public downloading would jeopardize the agency's existence.
Bruce Lehman, the Commissioner of the Patent and Trademark Office, said in a telephone interview that he did not have a philosophical quarrel with the idea
of making patent information more publicly available. He said his
agency had begun making some of its information available on its Web site. For example, it is now possible to retrieve the first page of any patent filed in the last 20 years and then request a paper copy of the entire patent document. [Weren't we lucky in 1998?]
*** Of the old IBM system-->
The issue, according to Mr. Malamud, is that Federal agencies have
been dragging their heels in an area that is vital to commerce and
technology innovation. He said that although I.B.M. has put patent data on line, its system is cumbersome and not widely used by competitors who fear that their searches might tip off I.B.M. to their current research.
"If you were an engineer at Sun Microsystems, you'd be crazy to do searches on the I.B.M. patent data base," he said.
***Separately, on proposals which correlate patents with innovation, from an IPBiz post in Sept. 2005:
In the last few months, there has been discussion of "number of patents" or "number of patents/employee" correlating with innovation. This is likely nonsense. Innovation is one thing; invention is another. Sometimes they are related; sometimes not.
From TheDeal.com [cnet]:
Piling up patents, though, can have as much to do with business strategy as with inventing things.