We English-speaking searchers often have to conduct global patent investigations. In order to search non-English collections, many of us need to rely primarily on English-language abstract files such as the Patent Abstracts of Japan collection. Another good option is to search the Derwent World Patents Index, where human editors translate and summarize the document into an English abstract, helping to standardize the technical terminology used in the patent. But as we all know, it’s impossible to shrink all the useful content of a patent into an abstract, no matter how well it’s translated.
For important prior art searches, companies should consider initiating native-language full text searches in collections of particular interest – and these almost always include Japanese language patents. But it’s also important to understand which search tools are being used by Japanese-language patent searchers, and whether they have access to high-quality full text data. Recently I was fortunate to catch a demonstration of CKS Web, a Japanese-language interface which can search a database of full text Japanese patent documents in their native language.