The IPKat blog has reported on the appearance of an academic paper by three German authors, The impact of spelling errors on patent search. It is in fact about errors in giving the names of patent assignees/ applicants.
It was rather hard reading but seems to say that the number of errors in giving company names in US Patent Office records went down from 6.5% to 4.7% between 2001 and 2010 in a sample of 3100 company names. That means that at least one error occurred in those names. The main sufferers were Koninklijke Philips Electronics, 45 misspellings in 2008, and Centre national de la recherche scientifique, with 28 in 2009.
This suggests manual keying in to me, and the solution surely lies in electronic data supplied by the applicants, together ideally with a thesaurus of known names so that a computer prompts a check each time an unknown spelling is used.
Important as this is, my own interest is more in incorrect wordings in titles and the summaries. I had a look to see how often “gold club” is used when golf club is meant. As of the time of writing, the phrase “gold club(s)” appeared 90 times in titles in the free Espacenet database. Of these, 45 were from Japan, and 27 from the USA (2 being Design Patents).
Espacenet will only correct spellings if their version is different from the original. In other words, if the original patent misspelt it, it stays misspelt. Of the 3 British entries among those 90, there is indeed Gold club cart, which was published in 1985, but the other two are errors in transcription or scanning.
I would not blame Espacenet alone – the Free Patents Online database for example reported 1154 hits for “gold club(s)” among US applications and grants, which does include designs and the full text. Food for thought, certainly.