Patent Searching Tips: Using Google to narrow it down

On this special episode of Danny Rooney, Danny tries to do something he has never done before…be serious.

Today, I want to give a quick refresher on how to use two patent search systems together to find results quickly and easily. This information may be entry level for patent search experts, such as those over at our parent company Landon IP, but it’s always good to brush up on the basics.

In our example today, I am going to use Google Patent Search System (Google Patents) in combination with a more in-depth patent search system such as PatBase, Thomson Innovation, or TotalPatent.

Most major stand-alone search engines are great at searching large quantities of patent data, but it is sometimes difficult to quickly and easily find a patent document representative of a particular prior art genre, especially if the art uses plenty of vague terms (think of generic terms like “member,” “mechanism,” or “surface”). Say, for instance, we have a widget that we are going to search for, and only have some simple data like a drawing, some claims and a brief description. If we enter those basic terms into a major patent search system, we could get lucky and something related may show up immediately, but for anything complex, that is often not the case.

Read more to find out how blending Google Patents in to the early stages of our search can save us time and help narrow our results.

If we use Google Patents for our initial searching, we can enter a number of search terms and quickly look through a number of results (both in keyword-in-context excerpts and representative images). If our initial query is not quite on point, then we can try different variations over and over until we find a few documents to our liking. The main strength of Google Patents is the powerful search engine and sometimes uncanny relevancy rankings that can more quickly display good prior art. The disadvantage to Google Patents is that it lacks many of the advanced searching capabilities of other more professional tools, and certainly lacks the breadth of coverage of those systems as well.

If we then import those Google-found document numbers into our main search engine, we can easily identify relevant classes and sub-classes, look up terms related to the art, and citation search our initial documents. In most cases, for searches that do not provide enough initial information, I have found this method to be much more efficient at finding relevant art from which to base my search, than by using the main search engine exclusively.

Of course, this method can be adjusted and tailored to your specific project, but hopefully this gives you an idea of how you can use the strengths of two different search engines to your advantage to save time in the beginning of your search, in order that you deliver a higher quality search to your customer in the end.

Next time: The real Danny is found locked in the office closet, wondering who this serious imposter is.

Find previous writings and musings from the off-kilter Danny Rooney here.

Patent Searches from Landon IP

This post was contributed by Registered Patent Agent Dan Wolka and edited by Chris Jagalla. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company, Landon IP, a major provider of patent search, technical translation, and information services.

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7 Responses

  1. Hi
    While your approach is a good way into a difficult or unfamiliar subject matter, the use of Google Patents is too (or completely) US-centric for the rest of us out here on the other side of the world.
    As someone with experience I know I could look for equivalents to find an IPC, but noobs or grommets (we need a word for baby searchers) don’t necessarily know that, and would need a Google World Patents sort of thing to help them.

    • Great point (as always) insomniac. That’s a good reason why Google can only be used as a starting point. On the plus side, Google has recently commented that they’re looking to expand the coverage…

    • US-centric, like most other free patent tools, but that does not invalidate the method. Honestly, would anybody with any expectations to the value of his invention patent it only in, say, Germany? The nearer to the large industries the inventions are taht your’e looking for, the truer this holds.

      But I agree in one point – let’s hope for Google World Patents.

  2. I absolutely cannot see the point of searching for just patents, excluding other sources of prior art.
    If you search for a patent to see whether you have something you are infringing on, you will need the prior art invalidating the patent.
    If you search to look for state of the art in an area, you are looking at completely the wrong place.

    • The author asked me to pass this along:

      “I absolutely agree that you need to search in other places to make a complete search, but that is not the point of the article. The point is to show ONE way on how you can START a difficult search where the subject matter does not show up easily using keywords in a more comprehensive search engine. Once you find some good art initially, then you can of course do more comprehensive searching in patents and other areas of prior art depending upon the type of search you are performing. Other techniques to provide a comprehensive search after some initial searching would be another article altogether.”

  3. One of the very interesting feature of Google patents: It can search within the document through OCR, where other databases cant. Its quite useful in searching prior art in older documents (pre 1970s)

  4. [...] Patent Searching Tips: Using Google to narrow it down (The Intellogist Blog) [...]

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