In the Google age, we have all become a little more familiar with how to search for something. However, most individuals don’t have to consider which databases to select to perform their search. Foreign-language databases are rarely included in everyday searches. Furthermore, the average user typically doesn’t use functional search operators. Boolean operators such as AND, OR, NOT and truncation limiters (or wildcards) such as $ and * may be employed by more sophisticated search enthusiasts and possibly IP managers. However, proximal operators such as ADJ, NEAR, WITH, and SAME are generally not part of their repertoire.
Moreover, utilizing patent classification indexes such as IPC, ECLA, F-Terms, and the more recent Cooperative Patent Classifications (CPCs) in patent text queries is already the exclusive domain of professional search analysts. The analyst needs to identify the structural and functional aspects of the invention (a legal task in which would-be claims have to be conjectured) in order to search for related subject matter, and then have an efficient approach to pruning the search results. After all, a search result of 2,000 hits is about as useless as a search result of 2. In this context, thorough does not mean exhaustive, but it does attempt to qualitatively incorporate precision and accuracy. A large number of search results becomes unwieldy to manage and assess, and a very small number of search results begs the question whether something was missed.
A professional search analyst needs to have a good grasp of the technology area to be searched, coupled with a legal mindset for identifying the patentable aspects of the invention, in combination with a search strategy that establishes the process through which the analyst will go through to produce a high-quality search report. In doing so, the professional search report can closely parallel (and predate) the examiner’s search report.
At FPIP, we refer to such an input strategy as informed search strings. Unlike simple keyword searches, our strategy considers the context of the invention and the technical art to decide how to select the right tools in the expert toolkit to use in the search to obtain the best results. Besides the myriad of patents that need to be reduced to a highly-specific dataset of relevant prior art, an additional hurdle is the fact that many patent documents are crafted in obscure ways to sometimes conceal the essence of an invention in order to avoid detection by pedestrian searches. This is why we feel that our approach in using informed search strings as a search framework provides enhanced value to our clients. Contact us to find out more about FPIP patent searches.