Top 5 Ways to Improve your Search Keywords

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Have you ever been conducting a patent search with your usual keyword strategies and just not getting the results you’re looking for? Returning too many hits? Not enough? False hits? In addition to reading and contributing to our Best Practices articles on patent searching, there are several ways to specifically improve your keyword selection when conducting a search. Since patent searching is part art and part science, I’m going to give you some tactics to improve both halves of your searching brain. Read on to find out how to make sure your keyword searches are tailored to your subject matter and more!


Tip #1 – Prepare to search by scoping the invention and listing key features – One of the best lessons for the start of the patent searching process comes from the informative guide Patent Searching: Tools & Techniques (authored by fellow Landon IP staff). No matter what kind of patent search it is, there will be some starting information for the patent searcher. It may be an invention disclosure, an existing patent, or a technology field. Think about the parts of the invention you’re looking for and break them down into components that you can specifically search for. Searching for a lock? You may want to break down the invention into components and use keywords such as pin, tumbler, wafer, or lever.

Tip #2 – Analyze an example patent – Let’s say you’re working on a search in a field you’re not intimately familiar with. Where do you start? If you have a reference patent or two, it’s a good idea to read those specifications in detail for technical keywords in the field. If you aren’t so lucky, try class searching until you find one you think might be relevant and then cracking open a few patents to see what the common keywords are. This can be further aided by keyword analysis, which is statistical analysis of the frequency of keywords. Does your patent search system have this tool? Check to see in our Quick Table Comparisons.

Tip #3 – Consider the source – What database are you searching? If it’s highly technical, like a patent database, you know you can use technical keywords. If it’s not, like a compiled source of business news and press releases, you may want to reconsider your keywords. Readership for business news and press releases is often more general and therefore the lexicon used might be at a lower level. When searching for key non-patent literature in your prior art search, keep in mind that you may need to be more broad in your keyword selection (depending on the source) in order to rack up a useful number of hits.

Tip #4 – Talk to a co-worker – …and not about the game last night (although you can do that too)! People from different technical backgrounds have different jargon and ways to refer to the same object. additional keywords can help you especially when the invention in question does not fall into a single technical discipline. It may be the case that the person who wrote the patent that would be a perfect match for your search was not well versed in one of the technologies involved, and used non-industry specific terms in the specification. If you don’t have a co-worker handy, feel free to pick anyone’s brain. Sometimes you can get stuck in a rut!

Tip #5 – Crack open the thesaurus – Since patent law often comes down to a war of words, patent documents are sometimes intentionally obfuscating (i.e. confusing). Use a thesaurus to add additional keywords to your search that might be outside of the usual jargon used in certain subject matter. Also think about how you could be more vague about describing part of an invention. Is that shaft journaled in the bearing, or is the member rotatably connected with it? Try varying only one or two of your keywords at once from narrower to more general terms if you get stuck in a dead end that results in few hits.

Hopefully these tips will aid you in your keyword searching and you don’t feel too overwhelmed. If you do, you can check out the myriad of patent searches provided by the professionals at our parent company, Landon IP.

Do you have tips of your own on how to select the appropriate keywords? Let us know in the comments below!

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This post was edited 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 search, technical translation, and information services.

12 Responses

  1. 6. Have a sample set of what you expect to find.

    That could include known relevant patents or key companies / inventors that should be in the final results. This set forms a valuable cross check or test for the results of your search during the iteration process.

    7. Don’t rely on a single search string – have a search strategy.

    Often combining a few searching strings (OR, AND, etc.) is better approach for isolating the right results, particularly in a space that is complex or not clear cut.

  2. Thanks for the tips Kate!

    It’s always a good idea to cross check…I usually call those sanity checks :)

  3. Thanks Cjagalla & Kate for sharing your experience and ideas on improvising the keywords that we consider for searching.

  4. lessen the emphasis on keywords and focus more with more precise classification codes, manual codes, uniterms, indexing in different databases and so on..

  5. Hi
    I agree with Kate’s tips.

    I know I’ve mentioned this before but

    8. Backup your keyword selection with a classification (IPC, ECLA, USPC) (and vice versa) to help remove the variability and minimise the impact of missing an important keyword.

    9. Be prepared to go back and add keywords to your strategy as you find them during your search. You probably won’t get it right the first time.

  6. Hi,

    I am glad that the blog owner has chosen a very interesting matter about Invalidation search. Invalidation search is done to identify documents or prior use that may reduce the claim scope for one or more claims of a granted patent or to invalidate a granted patent. The information on this blog is very helpful in that it helps by spreading a great deal of knowledge among people. I would like to congratulate for this hard work to the blog owner and would like to be part of this site by submitting comments.

  7. The topic is very useful and informative for me and those who are in IP field particularly Patent searching.

    By using ‘mixed up strategy’ we can get most relevant patent quickly.

    Mixed up strategy is a combination of classification, abstract, claims, title, international classification, assignee and referenced by

    Making a ‘Mixed up strategy’ requires depth knowledge in the particular domain.

    Thanks and Regards,

    Marimuthu Kalyanasundaram

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