Custom Fields in Patent Search Systems

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It can be a big struggle for corporate IP departments to sort and label all of their patent data. Between granted patent holdings, applications in-process, and pre-application invention disclosures, there’s a lot of internal tracking going on. Add to this the process of monitoring technology areas by classification, keeping tabs on key competitor patent filings, and compiling prior art databases for defending or attacking patent lawsuits…well you can see how the data can runneth over. If we limit our focus in this post to discussing patent search systems, we run into a couple of dilemmas immediately: inconsistent data fields ranging over an array of patent documents and the even larger issue of trying to combine data fields from multiple search systems with different formats altogether.

What’s the solution to this cataloging problem? Although there is no one solution, an emerging solution in the patent information field is the addition of custom fields. Custom fields are a way that patent records can be annotated, collaborated on, searched, and tracked–all within a patent search system.

Read on to find out some specific advantages of a custom field system, see how Thomson Innovation has implemented this feature, and what competitors will also offer this feature!

Thomson Reuters had the following to say about their implementation of custom fields within Thomson Innovation:

Custom Fields on Thomson Innovation enables professionals engaged in the IP lifecycle to add their own internal context to global patent information. For example, they can:

  • Apply internal technology classifications to patent records to assign them to specific portfolios or business units
  • Correlate product use or brand information to patent records to aid in valuation assessments
  • Drive alert result workflows by attaching a process stage to patent records, indicating when it’s ready for the next participant in the process to take action
  • Tag records with relevancy indicators to aid R&D colleagues in assessing technologies or to identify potential prior art for legal review
  • Import patent portfolio data from Thomson IP Manager®, Thomson Reuters intellectual asset management solution, to perform detailed analyses and make maintenance decisions

One of the themes of Thomson Reuters’ press release is that custom fields allow many constituents in the IP process to tag and provide input on individual patent records for later collaboration with other departments within a company. Giving technical researchers the ability to share their expertise in a searchable and standardized way is a huge time saver for the legal department since the information is directly attached to the patent record in the system. This is opposed to having to compare two documents or reports side by side which can induce mistakes. Even if time is spent combining the results into a custom database, this database then needs to be maintained with a set of protocols and procedures in order to stay up-to-date with one’s patent search system of choice.

Here are some other solutions for custom annotation in the patent search world (and I hope you’ll provide yours in the comments):

  • Aureka (a Thomson Reuters analysis tool) offers document annotation.
  • Engineering Village offers an extensive tagging feature
  • QPAT, a Questel product, supports workfile sharing between users including user-review, annotate, and ranking features.
  • SumoBrain and FreePatentsOnline offer user annotations for portfolios (another name for saved collections of patent documents). These portfolios can then be shared.
  • VantagePoint, another analysis tool, offers users the ability to add comments to datasets or individual records.

Additionally, analysis tool Minesoft iNSIGHT Pro (a joint venture between Minesoft and Gridlogics) is slated to include support for per-record custom fields.

In comparing these custom field/tagging/annotating features, I think ease of use and sharing are tantamount. Having these custom fields fully integrated into the search system itself (as we currently see in the Thomson Innovation custom field solution) provides the additional benefit of making the annotations searchable for ranking or fast recall purposes.

What’s your opinion on these custom field features? Is this in the future of all patent search search systems? Do you use a system like this currently or do you have your own method? Let us know in the comments below!

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Thomson Innovation

This post was contributed 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.


9 Responses

  1. Ha, this feature finally made it into a commercial system! It’s been the holy grail for getting truly customized and relevant perspectives on data. We’ve been adding custom fields to patent datasets downloaded locally for 13+ years to create client value.

    However, how many companies / analysts are willing to store information like that on someone else’s system? I know we wouldn’t ever do that in our patent studies on behalf of clients.

  2. Great insight Kate! I guess it comes down to whether or not you trust the security systems in place for X or Y patent search system. In a lot of cases the answer could be “no”…

  3. Maybe this is a bit silly, but I was wondering – could you do it as long as you used a code, and only you and your colleagues held the key to the code? That might add an extra level of security.

  4. Our product, PatentVista, has had this capability at its core since we launched this last summer. We certainly feel this is at the core of any patent knowledge management system. Our custom fields and taxonomies are customer-configurable, and are fully integrated into the search engine.

    Also, for companies that have security concerns, our customers can elect to hold all data inside their own firewall.

    • Thanks for the information Jason. Is there a site we could go to for more information about PatentVista? Does PatentVista serve as a patent search system in the way the above systems were described, or is it an internal patent management system to be used with a proprietary database?

  5. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for posting about Custom Fields within Thomson Innovation.

    Although annotation capability may exist in other services, Thomson Innovation is the only IP research solution that offers custom fields that can be searched, sorted, filtered, and analyzed without having to save records to a work file first. To clarify, annotations are different from custom fields – they are simply text comments, not true fields with predefined pick lists, etc. and cannot be sorted, filtered, searched or analyzed. Custom Fields within Thomson Innovation provide unique capability for users to fully integrate their own data with global patent information for better, more relevant IP decisions and improved workflow. Many of our customers are already deriving great value from this capability today.

    Since the question of security has been raised, let me quote some information derived from the help files within Thomson Innovation relating to this topic:

    “Thomson Innovation offers Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) connections. The SSL security protocol provides an https secured connection that supports 128-bit encryption of all requests to and from the Thomson Innovation website. This is the same technology that most e-commerce websites use to encrypt credit card information and is the industry standard security protocol for protecting sensitive data while in transit.

    For data stored on the site, Thomson Innovation requires that each user have a personal and unique user ID and password. This helps to protect any data stored on the site. Additionally, saved work items are stored in password-protected databases that are not accessible to the outside world. Extensive knowledge of the database structure would be needed to correlate saved work items to specific user IDs.

    In line with commercial industry standards, Thomson Reuters employs a dedicated security team to protect its servers from attacks and other attempts to compromise the security and/or proper functioning of its IT and communications systems. This includes deploying multiple firewalls to protect its servers and implementing proactive security scans and security updates to prevent attacks on our systems.”

    Full details of security, privacy and reliability measures for Thomson Innovation are available at

    These days with SSL security and deployment of all of the other measures outlined above, customers are far more comfortable with storing proprietary data on an internet-based platform than they were 5 years ago. is a good example of this, with companies storing data about their entire customer base in this CRM tool.

    Hope this clarifies the position, and a very Merry Christmas to all at Intellogist and to readers of your highly useful blogs.

  6. Thanks for the information, Bob! I agree that the Thompson Innovation features seem to be leading the pack in this area. It’s also good to hear about your extensive security efforts.

    Merry Christmas to you too!

  7. Dear Chris,

    Questel has provided clients with the ability to define customized user fields for many years. First, available on the QPAT platform and now accessible through; User Defined Fields allow for total control of the taxonomy specific to their industry, their company, their business unit, division or project. Aimed at facilitating our clients’ workflow, User Defined Fields allow our clients to upload internal dictionaries, thesaurus and classifications; add controlled vocabulary lists or plain text. All fields can then be searched, filtered, ranked and analyzed. In addition, Questel offers the ability to attach documents and create user notes (which automatically become searchable as well). All this information can be shared within the company or with third parties through elaborate user/reader management options. As far as implementation is concerned, customers can decide to have everything stored on our servers or behind their firewall.


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