Patent Citation Visualizations

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Patent citation visualizations are a hot feature in the patent search world. Most major systems have some variation on a feature that allows users to view a tree, web, or map-like structure detailing the forward and backward citations of a given patent or patent family.These tools can help visual learners more intuitively grasp the importance of a patent by seeing how many forward citations it has (patent documents issued after the document of interest that cite back to said document). Versions of these tools that allow dynamic manipulation can lead to quick browsing and discovery of related prior art while versions that include sorting or coloring can quickly display trends and competitive intelligence to non-patent savvy decision-makers.

Read on as we profile some prominent patent citation visualization features!


To view a full comparison of patent citation visualization features, see Intellogist’s Quick Table Comparison tool. This tool allows for side-by-side comparison of the patent search systems that have been reviewed by the Intellogist team. The field relevant to patent citation visualizations is, neatly enough titled “Citation Visualization Tool.”

Mining this field we see that the following systems which have Intellogist Reports also have patent citation visualization features:

Patent Lens is a free search system that offers a static citation tree feature.

The above example is a simple, static citation tree from Patent Lens–our most recently fully updated and revised Intellogist Report.

Dynamic systems are found in more high end for-pay systems, such as PatBase, QPat, Thomson Innovation, TotalPatent, and WIPS Global. These systems include features such as color-coding by patent family, sorting by timeline, quick access via hyperlinks to related patents, and customizable displays for presentation purposes. For more detailed information on each system’s applicable tool, see the linked Intellogist Report above.

At Thomson Reuters’ 2010 IP Solutions Customer Conference in Detroit, the citation visualization tool included in Thomson Innovation was widely discussed, by presenters and attendees alike. It makes sense that this is an in-demand feature (and a highly competitive and iterative one) in many of the top patent search systems–it’s a way to view patent information outside the norm of scanning through results lists and spreadsheets. In a field where “thinking out of the box” is rewarded, it can help to shake up the way information is absorbed. With patent citations tied in some fashion to today’s view of patent valuation, a patent citation tree may be a key illustration that gets the attention of a decision maker and convinces them of the appeal of acquiring a patent portfolio.

Have you used patent citation visualizations during a search or as part of a presentation? We want to hear from you below in the comments!

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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.

2 Responses

  1. A few years ago the tech transfer office at my university wanted to recognize two faculty inventors. They asked me to research their patents and create a graphic that showed their impact in terms of patent family members and citations. I didn’t have access to any commercial tools and this was before Patent Lens’s patent family visualizer, so I had draw everything by hand using PowerPoint. It took some time but the tech tranfer people were pleased with the final product.

  2. Infographics can go a long way towards breaking down barriers across disciplines. I’m glad they appreciated your effort!

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