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Most people reading this have an interest in patent searching. I remember the first time, working as a development engineer, I was asked to search the patent literature. This was a long time before the advent of readily available online searching, and so I found myself reading through a printed collection of relevant patents. I was fascinated that this vast collection of information was available to me, and many years later I still am.

Nonetheless, all of us have clients or managers and need to justify what we do. So how can we justify the cost of a patent search?

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I think all of us would admit that we are not 100% perfect patent searchers.  We may be very strong in some areas, but are unlikely to be perfect across every technical area we are asked to search in. 

Also keyword searching, even under the best of searchers, can still have its limitations as discussed in an earlier blog.  

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A question we often get is 'How does Cluster Searching work?"  

Without giving away too much of the propriatory details, Cluster Searching uses citation links to identify similar patents, Once people know this, they often ask something along the lines 'does this use keyword matching as well?

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We speak to people all around the world about our Cluster Searching patent searching tool, and one of the most common questions is "how does this differ from conventional citation searching?" This is an excellent question. 

To show you the differences, consider US patent US6898550, filed by Fitsense Technology and now owned by Nike, for a Monitoring activity of a user in locomotion on foot. This claims a method for predicting fitness based the direct measurement of foot strides.  

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Licensing managers are often called upon to identify potential licensing options for portfolios of patent they might manage. There are a variety of ways of doing this, but perhaps the easiest way, and a very simple starting point, is to start with the patents themselves.  

Ambercite has recently developed Cluster Searching, which is a web application for finding the most similar patents to one or more starting patents. This is done using advanced analytics which are applied to patent citations. Each patent citation is an opinion by an expert (being the patent applicant or examiner) that two patents are similar. The advanced analytics within Cluster Searching then combine these opinions to work out which clusters of patents are most similar to the starting patents, irrespective of the keywords or patent class codes that are use. Date filters can also be applied to focus the search. The search can take seconds to run working from the patent numbers themselves.

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Most patent searching is based on keyword or semantic searching. I understand this fully and use keyword searching a lot myself.   

However from long experience, I have learnt that relying on keyword searching alone will see a lot of highly relevant patents missed or incorrectly ranked in a relevancy list of patents found.  For this reason, we recommend to all searchers that they supplement their keyword or semantic searches with a citation based search such as Cluster Searching (where the seed patents for the Cluster Search could be the best hits they find using other search methods). 

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Viagra, which is a trade name for the drug sildenafil, has been a major bestseller for Pfizer earning it up to US$2 billion annually. Sildenafil was originally tested for use in dealing with hypertension, but the side effects on penile erections were soon noticed. 

The first patent for sildenafil was US5250534, which was filed in 1992, expired in 2012 and covered sildenafil itself, but neither of its two family members cover its effect on erectile disfunction or impotence. Pfizer followed up this up with US6469012, filed in 1994 for Pyrazolopyrimidinones for the treatment of impotence and hence clearly targeted at impotence. Equivalents to US6469012 have been filed in a number of other countries, including in Europe and as a PCT patent. US6469012 is slated to expire in 2019. 

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Background

Ambercite recently published a report on the top 10 patents in Australia, which has been well received. For another perspective on innovation in Australia, we have been collaborating with Andre Vermeij of Kenedict in the Netherlands. Andre has developed an innovative approach for mapping collaboration and collaboration opportunities, and was interested to apply this to Australian patents. The resulting study is shown below - and is a practical example of what is possible when disparate companies collaborate (note that this blog is jointly published by Kenedict here).

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In my time with Ambercite I have been lucky enough to meet many patent examiners, and in this process I have become aware of how diligent the patent examination process can be - in many cases taking two to four days to search for relevant prior art. 

These days patents that are to be examined often come with a pre-existing list of prior art, for example prepared during the PCT examination phase. As an example of this, consider this Nike patent WO2014143811, for a Shoe with resilient heel. If we look up this document in Google Patent or Espacenet, we can see that it has four listed citations: 

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Leading patent analyst Tony Trippe has just written a new blog featuring Cluster Searching - check it out here or by clicking the image below: 

Trippe-Blog.jpg

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