IPRally, a burgeoning startup out of Finland aiming to solve the patent-search problem, has raised €2 million in seed funding.
Leading the round is JOIN Capital and Spintop Ventures, with participation from existing pre-seed backer Icebreaker VC. It brings the total raised by the 2018-founded company to €2.35 million.
Co-founded by CEO Sakari Arvela, who has 15 years experience as a patent attorney, IPRally has built a knowledge graph to help machines better understand the technical details of patents and to enable humans to more efficiently trawl through existing patients. The premise is that a graph-based approach is more suited to patent search than simple keywords or freeform text search.
That's because, argues Arvela, every patent publication can be distilled down to a simpler knowledge graph that "resonates" with the way IP professionals think and is infinitely more machine readable.
"We founded IPRally in April 2018, after one year of bootstrapping and proof-of-concepting with my co-founder and CTO Juho Kallio", he tells me. "Before that, I had digested the graph approach myself for about two years and collected the courage to start the venture".
Arvela says patent search is a hard problem to solve because it involves both deep understanding of technology and the capability to compare different technologies in detail.
"This is why this has been done almost entirely manually for as long as the patent system has existed. Even the most recent out-of-the-box machine learning models are way too inaccurate to solve the problem. This is why we have developed a specific ML model for the patent domain that reflects the way human professionals approach the search task and make the problem sensible for the computers too".
That approach appears to be paying off, with IPRally already being used by customers such as Spotify and ABB, as well as intellectual property offices. Target customers are described as any corporation that actively protects its own R&D with patents and has to navigate the IPR landscape of competitors.
Meanwhile, IPRally is not without its own competition. Arvela cites industry giants like Clarivate and Questel that dominate the market with traditional keyword search engines.
In addition, there are a few other AI-based startups, like Amplified and IPScreener. "IPRally’s graph approach makes the searches much more accurate, allows detail-level computer analysis, and offer a non-black-box solution that is explainable for and controllable by the user," he adds.