Search Quirk of the Day

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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:

The refine search bar in Thomson Innovation

…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:

The Thomson Innovation search combination feature

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?

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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.


6 Responses

  1. My last one was in PatBase. They have a PDCC field that searches the publication date for a specified country but I needed to search the application date so I would have liked an ADCC field but it doesn’t exist. I tried the PatBase help desk and even they needed two goes at it to come up with an alternative to get that information, although in the end I just used my solution. I think it involved searching publication numbers starting with AU200.

  2. Kristen.

    Just curious – did you try alerting Thomson Innovation Customer Support for possible solutions or try to determine if they can fix it with the next update?

    WIth alleged quicks..It may be helpful to provide an opportunitty for the vendors to respond as well.

    Keep up the Good Work !

  3. You are right Yateen. We have made a practice here of keeping lists of features we’d like to see and communicating those to vendors. In this case, i did not contact Thomson Reuters technical support, simply because the error message said explicitly that I could not do what I was looking to do, and I figured I could find a workaround on my own. Contacting support can often kind of kill the momentum of a project, so I usually try to figure out a solution before picking up the phone – however, that said, I do love picking up the phone! I think a lot of these support reps know me by name.

  4. Insomniac, that is a good one. PatBase presents its own set of challenges due to its family organization – I was very glad when they introduced the PDCC and FTCC fields. Those took away some of the initial difficulties that searchers were having with the family organization, although as you note, the country-specific operators don’t apply to every field yet!

  5. One more thought regarding PatBase – I just realized that actually so many people were telling Minesoft that they needed a tool for US-only text searching, that Minesoft actually released PatBase US for that particular situation. I think that is a good example of vendors responding to customer requests, although I also think that maybe training those customers to understand the full version of PatBase could also have been valuable to them.

    In any case, I recognize that not everybody has a need for the most complex patent search products available – you wouldn’t teach someone how to command line search on STN if all they really needed was to run a few background queries every once in a while, or retrieve a few patent documents.

  6. Hi Kristin,

    The ability to combine the results of a publication number search and the results of a search done from the fielded search form is a logged enhancement in our development schedule and will be available in early 2011.

    In the meantime, as you have outlined, there is an alternative mode of searching. The patent number searches can be performed from the publication number field of the fielded form. Therefore, the result set from this search would be easily combinable with the results of the complex searches that had been done earlier. Unlike the publication number search form, the fielded search form has a default date range. So, it is recommended that you remove the publication date field box since it’s not necessary to be concerned with the publication dates of the patents you are entering.

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