DNA of a Patent Search

Original Date of Publication: 17th May, 2010

A patent search, in simple words, is an exercise of mining granted patents and published patent applications (patent documents) that are related to a subject matter of our interest. A patent search helps in making decisions under various scenarios. It helps determine, patentability of a subject matter, freedom to operate and validity of a patent, among others.
More often than not, a patent search is conducted to determine patentability of a subject matter for which we wish to file for a patent. Even though a patent search may never be exhaustive to an extent that one can say with complete confidence that a subject matter is patentable, a patent search nevertheless, helps us take an informed decision when we are contemplating the idea of applying for a patent.
We have to remember that it is not possible to screen through all the patent documents that are available for searching to determine patentability of a subject matter. Hence, a patent search strategy is required to help us mine patent documents that are most probably relevant to the subject matter of our interest.
Some of the most popular patent search strategies that are used for patent searching are listed below:
·         Keystring search
·         International Patent Classification (IPC) search
·         Citation search
·         Inventor and assignee search
Key string search
A key string search is carried out by identifying key words that are relevant to the subject matter. The key strings are formed by putting together key words using Boolean operators and proximity operators. Success of the search is greatly based on the quality of the keywords that are selected, synonyms of the key words that are used, and the manner in which the operators are used to form the key string. Success with this methodology of search being subject to the factors aforementioned is considered to be the most risky method of searching.
IPC search
An IPC search is considered to be the most fool proof way of searching. The challenge with this methodology is identifying the most relevant IPC classes. One of the approaches of identifying the right IPC classes can be to conduct a keystring search to start with and identify related patents. Subsequently, IPC classes of the related patents can be used to carry out the IPC class search. However, one has to remember that, even though this methodology is highly reliable, it is at the same time extremely time consuming.
Citation search
In this method, patent documents that have been cited (backward and forward) in the relevant patents that have been uncovered by using any of the above listed methods are analyzed.  This methodology cannot be used as a sole method of patent searching, it has to be clubbed with at least one of the above two methods.
Inventor and assignee search
Similar to the citation search, this method has to be clubbed with at least one of, key string search, IPC search and citation search. In this method, names of the inventors and assignees of relevant patents identified in the three methods listed above are used to carry out a patent search.
As a concluding remark to this post, I would like to advice beginners to rely more on IPC search (plus citation, inventors and assignee search), as I believe that the skill to form good key strings only comes with experience.

Leave a comment