Considering Kind Codes when Analyzing non-US Patents

In my patent analysis work, I am sometimes asked to review patent documents from jurisdictions other than the US, such as from Europe (EP) and the United Kingdom (GB).

A common error I have encountered when analysts in the US look at patent documents from other jurisdictions is that they review the wrong version of a patent document, thereby wasting their own and their client’s time. Counter to the USPTO’s practice of separate pre-grant patent application publication and granted patent numbering schemes (11-digit and 7-digit, respectively), many other jurisdictions use the same number for both published patent applications and granted patents. The way that these other jurisdictions’ patent offices (such as the EPO and UK IPO) represent the difference in the patent document identifier is through the use of a “kind-of-document code”, which is a one- or two-character suffix that follows the patent document number — e.g., GB2172127A vs GB2172127B.

For another example, EP patent applications are represented with a trailing “A” kind code, while granted EP patents are represented with a trailing “B” kind code. For EP patent documents, an “A1” indicates a European patent application published with a European search report, and a “B1” indicates a “European patent specification (granted patent)”. There are several other kind codes for each of the “A” and “B” kind code sets — for more details, see the EPO’s kind code help page. The USPTO has its own comparable US kind code list, and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) additionally has a comprehensive guide to patent kind codes.

The specific error that I have witnessed from a few other patent analysts is that they spend time reviewing the claim set of a published EP or GB patent application (i.e., kind code “A”)  instead of reviewing the claim set of the associated granted EP or GB patent (i.e., kind code “B”). Obviously analysis on an originally-filed or still-pending set of claims is likely to not be helpful for a client because the client wants to know how relevant the issued claims are, and the issued claims are very likely to represent some, if not many, modifications from the original claim set. The claims normally differ between these two, potentially substantially, so when analysts map or otherwise analyze “A” claims the work is probably incomplete and/or inaccurate. Part of the problem is that search tools such as Espacenet default to showing the “A” claims, even when the “B” version has been selected. To get to the “B” version of the claims, one must explicitly select such. The kind code B claims are only available in a PDF image at Espacenet and the UK IPO.

UPDATE: However, thanks to Google, this doesn’t mean that I have to OCR them and/or type them in when filling out reviews. Google Patents has support for EP and WO patent documents, including the claims. Google Patents provides kind code B claims in a textual format for simple copy-and-paste, and the Patent Claims Tree tool for the Chrome browser will parse these textual claims and provide a claims tree.

See the example screen shot below showing selection of the “B” kind code of a particular granted GB patent GB2172127, with the “A” kind code claims displayed instead — note that the indication of this is rather subtle (source: http://worldwide.espacenet.com/publicationDetails/claims?CC=GB&NR=2172127B&KC=B&FT=D&ND=4&date=19881012&DB=EPODOC&locale=en_EP, retrieved Feb 15, 2013):

GB patent kind code "A" claims
GB patent kind code “A” claims

Therefore, when performing patent analysis on non-US patents, it’s best to understand and leverage the kind code to ensure that you are reviewing the appropriate set of claims.

Patent News Feeds Android app

I have released an update to an Android mobile application RSS and Twitter feed reader for patent-related news from several of the most popular patent and intellectual property (IP) blogs. This Android app is provided and maintained for free by my patent analysis company Wolf Mountain IP (via Wolf Mountain Apps).

For more details on the application, see the Google Play page for “Patent News Feeds”.

UPDATE (March 2, 2016): This app has since been unpublished.

FeedsReaderSettings

Patent Claims Tree tool

I recently published a Chrome browser extension that provides a patent claims tree for a given patent document — this tool is available here.  I developed the tool for myself, and I find it quite handy in my daily patent analysis work, so I thought I would share it with the patent community for free.  I hope you like it.

Features:

  • Supports the following websites:
    • USPTO
    • FreePatentsOnline
    • Google Patents
    • ArchPatent
  • Displays the type of claim (e.g., apparatus, method, system, etc.)
  • Displays the word count for independent claims
  • Highlights the claim with the shortest word count
  • Displays a means-plus-function (MPF) language indication (searches for word “means”)
  • Links to USPTO Assignment database for the current US patent document.
  • Links to USPTO Maintenance Fees for the current patent.
  • Links for searching for US patent litigation associated with the patent.
  • Links to Google Patents PDF for the current US patent document.
  • Links to Google Patents Prior Art Finder for the current US patent document.
  • Links to FreePatentsOnline for the current US patent document.
  • Links to EPO Register for EP patent documents.
Patent Claims Tree Chrome extension
Patent Claims Tree Chrome extension

USPTO Inventor Resources

As a patent practitioner, I am often asked about patents, their purpose, and their scope. The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has several helpful web pages that an inventor can refer to when trying to learn more about patents. One such web page is the “Inventors Resource” page, available here.  For general information concerning patents, one can refer to the USPTO’s “Patent Basics”.  The USPTO also provides an overview of the role registered patent practitioners play in assisting inventors to obtain patents, and outlines the differences between a patent attorney and a patent agent here.  And finally, many companies and individuals are utilizing provisional patent application filings for various reasons, and the USPTO defines provisional patent applications and their associated process, considerations, and tradeoffs here.

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