Every once in a while I am doing a project and come across the need to perform what I assume will be a simple task in my patent search software, and then find out that it just can’t be done.
I wanted to start highlighting and cataloging these little quirks, and I don’t mean to pick on any particular system. There have got to be dozens of instances of this kind of thing in most products, as designers can’t anticipate every possible way searchers will want to use these systems – but when a big workflow impediment comes up, it benefits us to document that and let our vendors know.
Recently I was in a situation where I had a set of documents that I wanted to work with in Thomson Innovation. I uploaded the documents into the system using the publication number import window and selected “Results Set” – without a problem, I was able to see my documents as a set of search results. Next, I had a set of very long, complex keyword queries in my active Thomson Innovation search history that I wanted to combine with my document set, one-by-one, to see the overlap between my set and each query. This would be a combination using the Boolean AND, essentially telling the system, “show me all the documents in my results set that also match this keyword query.”
There is a way to run a keyword query within a results set in Thomson Innovation via the “Refine Search” box at the top of the Results Set screen, which looks like this:
…but I didn’t want to use that option. I had ten different queries to work with, and I knew the processing time on each one of these searches would be quite long. So I went to combine my document set with my first keyword query, using the “combine queries” feature from the Thomson Innovation search history page, which looks like this:
Query 4378 was the query representing my uploaded document set. Query 4377 represented the first keyword query that I wanted to run *within* my document set using the Boolean AND operator. When I pressed “Submit,” I got the following error message:
You are requesting a search combination that includes a patent publication number search (created on the publication number search form) and that type of combination is not supported. Publication number searches cannot be included in any combination operation (not even with other publication number searches). […]
Well, I was actually really surprised to see that error message. Crossing these kinds of sets together doesn’t seem like it should be that difficult from a computational standpoint. So, I suspect this is an example of Thomson Innovation developers not predicting that users will frequently need to do this type of operation. However, I think that for full time patent searchers, it’s not too uncommon to want to work with large document sets in a cross-platform situation. I eventually was able to find a workaround: I used fielded search form to create a publication number query containing all the document numbers of interest – since the query was executed from the fielded search form,Thomson Innovation then allowed it to be combined with other queries in the active search history.
Again, this is a very specific example of just one thing that became an obstacle on one particular project – and this kind of problem can be encountered on every different search system out there, depending on how unusual the user’s needs happen to be for that particular project. But, I think it’s interesting to document these nonetheless.
What kind of unexpected workflow obstacles have you encountered recently?
This post was edited by Intellogist Team member Kristin Whitman. 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.