Prior IP: Patent Cluster Visualization

Prior IP (formerly SparkIP) is a neat site that is worth your attention because of its ability to automatically cluster and visually display technology areas with patent data. Today we’ll show you how to use Prior IP to explore and learn about patents in an unconventional way.

First, a little about what Prior IP (homepage) is and does: Prior IP is a patent search site that organizes patent documents into categories called clusters, which are organized ahead of time based on citation analysis. A granted patent or patent application can be in more than one cluster, and over 50,000 clusters exist in the Prior IP network. Visualizations related to clusters available on Prior IP include cluster maps, cluster landscapes and cluster neighborhoods.

Read on to find out more about how you can play around with Prior IP!


After inputting your search (simple keyword or advanced search with fields and fuzzy matching possibilities), a results list of relevancy ranked patents will be displayed. Clicking on an individual result will display the selected patent document in a format reminiscent of Google Patents, displaying the text of the document along with a thumbnail of the front page. The full document image is not provided by Prior IP. The interesting aspect of Prior IP comes into play when the users selects the “Visualize IP Search Results” option from the results display.

Viewing results in Landscape

Clicking on "Visualize IP Search Results" generates a summary of cluster maps, filterable patent document results, and access to statistics.

Among other options to further visualize and filter patent document results, the star of the Visualize IP Search Results page is the thumbnail view of the cluster maps, and access to those nuggets of information.

Clicking through to a cluster map, we see a visually friendly and engaging spatial orientation of technology groups.

Cluster Map

A close up of one part of a cluster map.

This cluster map may help prior art searchers out of their familiarity zones get a grasp on what neighboring technologies they can direct further searches towards. From the above example it’s clear that planetary gears and automatic transmissions are in close technological overlap and are worth examining together.

The most interesting part however, is that this cluster map can be used as an interface for statistically investigating these technology areas, merely by clicking on a node within the map.

Cluster details

Cluster details include top terms, a patent frequency timeline, top assignees, top inventors, and top patent documents.

Within this pop-up graphic, users can quickly see top terms; a frequency timeline to identify trends; and top assignees, inventors (not functioning during our testing), and documents to investigate. The best part of Prior IP is that this data is always at your fingertips and can be navigated with ease. It’s not as if this data isn’t available in other systems via classification analysis…it’s rather that Prior IP has developed another, intuitive way for people to explore patent data. For that reason alone, I think it’s a site worth checking out.

What do you think of Prior IP? Are there other patent data visualization tools that keep you coming back? Let us know in the comments below!

Patent Workbench™ from Landon IP

This post was contributed by Intellogist Team member Chris Jagalla. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company Landon IP, a major provider of patent searches, trademark searches, technical translations, and information retrieval services.

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6 Responses

  1. Seems like a nice tool (visually) at first look but not very sure if it can actually contribute to our patent search and ladscape analysis. Now a days, various analytical tools are coming up for patent search and analytics but most of them are limited to providing fancy charts and providing top assignees, inventors, classes but from my experience, these sites rarely contribute to patent searching ana analytics. People still use their old trusted databases for the same.

    • Rohit, I agree. I don’t think this tool stacks up to use as the “main” analytics tool for use in a patent landscape or other study (for now, they’re still developing it). I do think it merits checking out as a way to expand your searching horizons, however, since it is free.

  2. Hi Chris,

    Thank you for reviewing our patent analytics site! There is one more way of visualizing the clusters that I want to point out. It is called the Cluster Neighborhood Map and it is available here.

    The Cluster Neighborhood Map shows the neighboring clusters most similar to the currently selected cluster. Unlike the Search Results Cluster Map, this map is not filtered based on the patents returned from the query. It is a global representation of the underlying cluster network. Using this view, the user can ‘walk’ through the clusters using the ‘Re-center map on this cluster’ feature of the interface. You can get to this view from the ‘Browse Cluster Neighborhood’ link of the cluster popup already detailed in your review. Please give it a try!

    Stuart O’Day

    Prior IP

  3. Thanks for the helpful tip, Stuart!

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