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Search Process

March 17, 2010

An earlier post provided an overview of the various types of patent-related searches [Link].

This post summarizes some typical high-level steps (20 total) taken in performance of a patent search, with some steps more or less relevant (if even applicable) for each of the different types of searches.  Of course, there are further actions that could be taken for each step, and there can also be some intervening steps.  What’s primarily missing is the actual determination of potential relevance for each reference — this depends on the subject matter being analyzed, and can be quite difficult (as readers likely know).

(1) Review disclosure/description/patent document of interest.
(2) Extract keywords.
(3) Use thesaurus and web to add synonyms to the keyword list.
(4) Create Boolean searches using various keyword combinations, correctly utilizing the syntax for the database used (e.g., FreePatentsOnline, Delphion, USPTO, Google, AcclaimIP, etc.).  Also, take advantage of additional tools such as word stemming, wild cards, proximity, term weighting, relevancy, etc.
(5) Determine the types of documents to search (often based on the type of search being performed): e.g., US patents, US patent applications, European patent documents, PCT documents, non-patent literature, Japanese abstracts, etc.
(6) Include any constraining limitations as needed, e.g.: location within patent documents (ABST, ACLM, SPEC, TTL, etc.); date range (APD) (e.g., for invalidity search); inventors or assignees (IN, AN); and classification (CCL).
(7) Perform searches based on the steps above.
(8) Analyze results from (7) — peruse the title, abstract, background, summary, claims, etc. as needed to ascertain relevance.
(9) Narrow or expand (4), (5), and (6) if needed based on results and re-perform (7) and (8).  Otherwise, continue to step (10).
(10) Collect and save results — many databases allow searches and results to be saved for future review and performance.
(11) Review this batch for relevance using the claims.
(12) Narrow the list to the most relevant, and save this collection.
(13) Determine classification class/subclass(es) to search in addition from (i) the most relevant patent documents and (ii) reviewing classification manual.
(14) Contact examiner(s) to confirm and/or recommend class/subclass(es).
(15) Search using these classifications using the current classification field.
(16) Analyze results (as in step (8)).
(17) Collect and save results.
(18) Create a list of the most relevant.
(19) Use patent documents in this list to review:

  • (i) “Cities” references
  • (ii) “Cited” references
  • (iii) Sibling and parent patent documents
  • (iv) For the most interesting references, also see the prosecution history to gather even more references
  • (v) Semantically-related references — e.g., using a search tool semantic analyzer such as Google’s Prior Art Finder or AcclaimIP’s semantic search

(20) Repeat steps (16), (17), and (18) as needed.


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  1. May 31, 2013 at 12:27 pm
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