An effective search strategy requires searchers to master a specific set of patent search techniques. Bin Wu, Senior IP Solution Consultant at Questel, shares five high-level steps in search strategy building.
Building an effective search strategy requires searchers to leverage patent search techniques that make best use of the available search technology. From identifying relevant keywords to establishing effective search strings, these five high-level steps will enable you to create the right search strategy for your organization when using Orbit Intelligence or other patent search tools.
Step 1: Identify Relevant Keywords
The searcher extracts keywords (and their synonyms) from the patent at hand and conducts supplementary research to uncover more related terms. A preliminary list is compiled, with a reminder to incorporate broad alternate terms. This list is a fluid entity, subject to modification throughout the subsequent phases.
Orbit Intelligence extracts key technical features into a dedicated field, aptly named ‘Concepts’ (as pictured below). Moreover, it offers a preliminary search using semantic and similarity search capabilities, providing an edge to the searcher in scoping their strategy.
Similarity searches allow the searcher to broaden their search using advanced algorithms based on the following criteria, when present: codes (CPC, IPC, US classifications), common citations (cited and citing), extended families (priority numbers in common), and concepts. We sometimes refer to the 3Cs: codes, citations, and concepts, plus priority numbers in common.
Step 2: Identify Relevant Classification Codes
Various international patent classification schemes categorize patents and patent applications into different granular technologies. Under these schemes, each patent is assigned one or more codes (called classification codes). A few examples of classification schemes are Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC), International Patent Classification (IPC), United States Patent Classification (USPC), and Japanese Patent Classification (F-Terms).
The searcher identifies the classification codes relevant to the invention and reads its definition to ascertain relevance to the invention, before including it in the search strings. A few patent search techniques to identify relevant classification codes are given below.
- Perform a very focused search targeting the key features and review the most frequently appearing classification codes in the search hits
- Check definitions of classification codes assigned to patents listed in the patent in question (if any)
All kinds of classification schemes are available in Orbit Intelligence. Meanwhile, a special scheme named ‘Technology domains,’ which is derived by grouping IPC codes, is available to facilitate the search to broadly narrow down the search scope:
Step 3: Form Search Strings
This is one of the most important steps in the search process. Therefore, a logical strategy needs to be devised to capture patent publications disclosing one or more key features of the invention. The searcher performs a search using the essential keywords/concepts to find any obvious reference that discloses the subject matter. The searcher thinks about various ways in which the concepts present in the key features may be described in a prior art document and formulates search strings accordingly. For example, the searcher may build search strings focused on the technical aspect of the key feature(s), problem statement, applications of the invention, advantages of the invention, and so on.
In Orbit Intelligence, key content is extracted using linguistic technology from the full text of the patent document and comprises the ‘Object of the Invention,’ ‘Advantages of the Invention Over Previous Art,’ and ‘Independent Claims.’ In this case, the searcher can put the search queries in the aforementioned dedicated search fields to retrieve relevant search results.
Meanwhile, Orbit Intelligence provides various search operators in conjunction with different keywords, which is capable of broadening or narrowing the search scope extremely flexibly:
The process of forming search strings is iterative. The searcher performs a cursory review of results (obtained using a search string) and refines the search string depending on the relevancy of the results. Further, the searcher identifies new keywords/classification codes while analyzing the results and incorporates them into the search strings.
Step 4: Search for Citations
The searcher analyzes the forward and backward citations of the shortlisted patent publications as they are likely to disclose a few key feature(s).
In Orbit Intelligence, the citation search is empowered by the detailed indexing as below:
- total number of cited and citing patents/patent families, including the number of citations with USPTO rejection details;
- Whether this family has cited Non-Patent Literature (NPL);
- Self or non-self citations;
- Citation origin (examiner, applicant or 3rd party);
- Citation category related to novelty or obviousness (categories X, Y, I, 102, 103).
Step 5: Search by Inventor/Patent Assignee
Additional searches such as assignee-based and inventor-based are carried out in an invalidation search. These searches help in preparing an optimal search strategy to locate relevant prior art.
In Orbit Intelligence, the assignee name and the inventor name are standardized and normalized. The searcher can rely on the dedicated assignee-related fields and inventor-related fields to conduct an effective search.
In the dynamic realm of IP, arming oneself with the right tools and knowledge can be the key to success.
Find out more about Orbit intelligence by requesting a software demo or contacting our specialist IP Solutions Consultants.
Bin Wu is responsible for supporting a variety of Questel IP product and service solutions. Before joining Questel, he used to work as an electronic engineer, patent attorney, in-house IP professional, and patent searcher. Wu Bin has more than 15 years of experience in the IP field and is familiar with different kinds of technology intelligence analytics theories and patent prosecution practice.