Patent Search Systems: Specialize or Diversify Your Knowledge?

When it comes to patent search tools, there is no shortage of choices. Some search systems are built for those that need a free option. Some search systems are built for those that need access to incredibly complex chemical data. There seems to be a search system for each type of user out there.

With so many options available, it can be overwhelming to know which search system is right for your needs. Once you (or your company/firm) has decided on which tools to choose, it’s up to you to decide how to use them.

As a patent searcher, it’s your job to learn the ins and outs of these systems so that you can do your work efficiently and thoroughly. Keeping up with product updates, nuances, and quirks are all part of the package. If patent searching is akin to being a talented painter, each unique system is a brush that reacts differently to each “paint” and “canvass.”

So with all of these demands, what’s a patent searcher to do? Given limited time, should he or she specialize in one search system or diversify their search tool knowledge across multiple systems?

Read about the advantages of each, and a recommendation after the jump!

The Benefits of Specializing in a Single System

1. Know the full range of possibilities – Each search system is not created equally. If you concentrate on knowing the ins and outs of a single system you can take advantage of all of the features, be they main points of the product or tiny tidbits that you acquire over many searches. These types of things include niche or unusual search fields, analysis tools, and data sources.

2. Know the limitations so you can explain results – When you are extremely familiar with a certain search system, you’ll be more likely to be able to explain and pass on the results of your search. What do the contents of a specific exported assignee column mean? If you spend your time becoming an expert at a certain system, I’ll bet you’ll know (or you’ll learn quickly!). This also comes into play if things aren’t working correctly. If you are an expert, you’ll know when unexpected results start showing up. This can be the difference between making a fundamental mistake and retracing your steps to get the appropriate findings.

3. Search faster and more efficiently – Time saving tricks are best learned through repetition and refinement. Little shortcuts that you can employ here and there during search string input (for example) will give you more time to do what your client is really paying you for: analyzing and identifying the actual prior art.

The Benefits of Diversifying your Search System Knowledge

1. Blend the best attributes of multiple systems – Being knowledgeable about multiple search systems can open you up to the relative strengths and weaknesses across different tools. Checking the Intellogist Quick Table Comparison Tool will aid you in this task, but only you know exactly what type of data and search features will help you deliver the prior art your client needs. Having multiple tools available (and within your knowledge!) can help you fill in gaps such as non-patent literature, chemical data, specialized assignee or legal data, and much much more.

2. Not reliant on one subscription or system working – Let’s face it: in the world of technology, stuff happens! Almost every subscription search tool will have a dedicated staff ready to fix things when they go wrong, but how much time is ticking off the clock while they do? On the other hand, who’s there to fix niche and/or developing systems such as iPairs when they crash? Broadening your knowledge and skill with multiple systems allow you to continue your search with minimal down time and damage to your progress.

3. Become more skilled at search in general — not just more skilled at doing it one way – The third point in favor of diversifying your knowledge is that you will become a better searcher overall. Focusing on just one system can lead you to be reliant on features and ways of doing things that may not always be around. If you’re used to only filling out a search form, how will you react when you need to use a system that requires a command line interface? The world of patent search systems is a constantly changing and evolving one, and being exposed to multiple systems will only help your future as a patent searcher.

So which is the better option?

Personally, I think it’s best to be extremely proficient in one system, with a background in many systems. The more time you can spend using your brain to analyze references and the less time you spend fighting the search system–the better. On the other hand, it’s extremely important to know when your main system isn’t going to be the best tool for the job and to have the knowledge and skill to use your ace-in-the-hole search tool.

In the end, it’s great to have a team of dedicated search professionals, such as Landon IP, and a host of IP communities to turn to for broadening your scope of knowledge.

What do you think? Should patent searchers specialize in one tool or diversify their knowledge? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!

Patent Searches 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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2 Responses

  1. You need to know more than one system in some detail. By detail I guess I mean more of what is possible and not so much being proficient. For example I have a reasonable idea what I can get from STN but I use it so rarely that I need to brush up each time before I use it. I get a lot of requests for particular combinations of information and I need to be able to say yes or no if it’s possible, and also know exactly where to go to get it. Think about that UK TV show guy the other day. Where do you find that information easily? You can’t, but at least between us he is now a little closer.

  2. Great point (as always), insomniac!

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