Does your database deliver patents “plus”?

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Patents don’t exist in a vacuum.  We need corporate hierarchy and financial data to help us with assignee searching,  literature databases in which to research non-patent citations, and legal information to help us figure out the status of a patent and whether it has been litigated.

Recently a new search tool has come out that offers some nice integration for free (at least for now).  Patent Calls Tools offers a free US patent search which includes maintenance fee, post-issuance, and patent family data.  Below is a screenshot of red, yellow and green maintenance indicators shown for each document in a hit list.

Maintenance fee indicators on results set

Maintenance fee indicators on the Patent Calls results set

Patent Calls also offers some other cool features, especially for a free search tool!  The search interface includes keyword weighting and a three-step US classification selection tool.  The patent family display includes an interactive graphing feature.  When viewing patent claims, you can reduce the interface to original claims, dependent claims, or grant claims only.   And the results view includes a two-panel configuration that will show you (for example) the text and images side-by-side.    Below is a screenshot of the two-pane display format.

Patent Calls two-pane display format

Patent Calls two-pane display format

The system also offers a searching assistant, called the Targeted Automated Research Assistant or TARA, which “examines the set of search results and suggests a set of search terms” based on your initial search.  (It isn’t immediately clear what kind of technology is behind TARA.)

Another unusual feature is the “Prior Art” display option, which may not yet be functional, but which will provide a “visual timeline of related patents” for the selected document.

Finally, the system appears to be designed to support import, export, group by family, and search history functions, making it even more convenient for serious searchers. The CSV exports even include the maintenance status indicator (green, yellow, or red) for each document.  And by the way, there is an iPhone app!

Now, a couple of caveats before I finish. First, it’s commonly accepted wisdom that you have to go to USPTO PAIR to get the last word on maintenance fee status – you should never rely on any other source for this. And second, I’ve only played with the tool for a few hours now, so I may have missed some cool features and/or some bugs.

What are your impressions of Patent Calls – will you be using this free search tool?  And what other kinds of information would you be interested in seeing alongside your patent data?

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Thomson Innovation

This post was contributed by Intellogist Team member Kristin Whitman.


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