Free Family, Citation, and Legal Status Searches for Chinese Patent Documents on PSS of SIPO

In September 2012, I compared the free patent search options available for Chinese patent documents, and one option was the free English patent search interface created by SIPO. SIPO also provides another free patent search tool called the Patent Search and Service System (PSS), which went online for public testing in April 2011 and currently includes both English and Chinese search options.  According to an EPO press release, the PSS includes “a number of advanced search and retrieval possibilities, such as citation and family searches, cross-lingual retrieval, legal status information, full text data and machine translation.”  The tool allows users to access CN data on patents, utility models, and designs from 1985 onwards, and the system is updated monthly. Worldwide patent document data covering 97 countries (most likely INPADOC data) also appears to be searchable under the structured search form. The tool is free, but registration is necessary to access many of the more advanced tools of the system, such as viewing the Search History tab and downloading full PDF documents.  Unfortunately, registration proved to be a bit problematic for an English-language user, and some features were still not accessible even after registering for the portal.

Read on to learn about the advanced search tools accessible for Chinese and worldwide patent documents on PSS, and also learn about the registration and access problems that you may encounter when using this system.


From the English-language home page of PSS (the basic search form), users can register for an account by selecting the “Regist” button in the top right corner of the screen, beside the “Login” button.  The user is then prompted to enter user name, password, email, verification code, name, additional optional personal information, and indicate that they have read the “Agreement of System Application.” I initially had some trouble registering for an account on the portal, since the name field would not accept an English-language name. I ended up using Chinese characters to enter in the name field, and the registration was accepted.

After signing in to the portal, I am still unable to access the “Batch” and “Download” tabs (described below), and a message appears on these tabs stating “Sorry, you don’t have permission to access this menu.”  After registration, I am able to access the “Search History” tab, “File” tab, and I can download a full TIFF version of Chinese patent documents.

Download a TIFF file containing the full CN document image after registration for an account.

Download a TIFF file containing the full CN document image after registering for an account on PSS.

Search Tools

The English-language version of the platform has seven tabs available, including:

  • Basic Search – Select one of the options to search by keyword (SE option searches title, abstracts, rights claim, and classification number simultaneously), application number, publication number, applicant/assignee, inventor name, or document title. After selecting the field search option, enter the query in the search form. Boolean operators AND/OR/NOT and quotations to indicate phrase searches are accepted in the search form. The user can mouse over the search form to view instructions on correct query formation for each selected field search option.
Basic search form on PSS.

Basic search form on PSS.

  • Structured Search – Under this tab, users have the option to search by “Worldwide patent documents,” “CN patent documents,” or “Worldwide patent documents other than CN.” Selecting only the CN collection allows the user to search through additional fields, like “Brief description of design model” and “Zip code of the applicant.” After selecting the collection to be searched, the user can construct a query through either a selection of fielded text boxes or through a command-line interface at the bottom of the form. The command line accepts nested queries, field operators, Boolean operators, parentheses, and proximity operators. The users can scroll over the text box of the search fields to view any available help information about correctly formatting queries.
Structured search form (for the CN document collection) on PSS.

Structured search form (for the CN document collection) on PSS.

  • Search History – View previous searches conducted through the portal. This tool is for registered users only.
  • File – This section possibly allows the user to access file history information for a given CN document. This tool is for registered users only.
  • Useful Tools – This section provides users with a number of additional search features:
    • IPC – Simultaneously locate Chinese and English-language definitions for an IPC classification.
    • Family – Conduct a family search based on a given publication number.
    • Citation – Conduct a citation search based on a publication or application number.
    • Legal Status – Conduct a legal status search based on a publication or application number.
    • Applicant/Patentees Alias – Find alternate versions of the applicant/assignee name.
    • Country Code – View the correct country code and organization name for each national or regional organization.
    • Bilingual Dictionary – Look up terms from Chinese to English or English to Chinese.
    • Relevant Classification – Enter an IPC code and find the closest corresponding code in ECLA, USPC, F-Index, or F-Term.
    • Relevant Term – Enter a basic terms and retrieve synonyms.
IPC concordance tool on PSS.

IPC concordance tool on PSS under the “Useful Tools” section.

  • Batch – This section possibly refers to batch downloads of CN documents. This section is only available for registered users.
  • Download– This section possibly refers to PDF downloads of CN documents. The Download section is only available for registered users.

Viewing Results

After conducting a search, users can view basic bibliographic data in a results list (10 results per page). Users can select or de-select all results per page and browse the full records or add the results to their list of favorites (only 10 documents can be included in the favorites list at one time). The results list page includes both the search history and favorites list on the right side of the hit list.

Basic bibliographic data and links to full record, family, legal status, etc. provided in search results.

Basic bibliographic data and links to full record, family, legal status, etc. provided in search results.

Each result in the hit list includes (when available):

  • Option to view or hide basic bibliographic fields (AN, AD, PN, PD, TI, etc.).
  • Details – Full record, including abstract with English translation and representative image. Users can view the full text image and translate the full document text from English to Chinese or Chinese to English. The full record view for US and EP documents also includes examination result browsing options. Registered users can also download full-text TIFF files of selected documents from the full-record view.
Full record view for a CN document, with option to translate full-text from Chinese to English.

Full record view for a CN document, with option to translate full-text from Chinese to English.

  • Family – View a table of related family members for a patent document.
  • Citation – View a list of patent citation documents, non-patent citation documents, and cited documents.
Citation data for a CN document.

Citation data for a CN document.

  • Comparative Documents – View lists of relevant patent documents and relevant non-patent documents.
  • Legal Status – View legal status data for the document.
  • Applicant Information– View information on the applicant/assignee (such as address/zip code/country).

 Help Options

For English-language users, the main help material is accessible through the tooltips that appear when the user scrolls over various search forms. A detailed Chinese-language help file is available here. English users can also access the most recent user guide from the EPO about the PSS system at the “Searching in databases – China” section of the EPO website. As of December 2012, the most recent user guide from the EPO on registering and document retrieval through PSS is available here.


Despite the registration problems and access limitations for some sections of PSS, the system still offers flexible search tools and excellent viewing/document download features for CN documents. The legal status, citation, and family search options for CN documents on an English-language interface are unique features for a free online search portal.  The “Useful Tools” section of the portal also includes some very helpful tools for general query formation, such as a bilingual dictionary, applicant alias look-up, a synonym tool, and even an IPC-to-USPC/ECLA/F-Index/F-Term concordance tool.  Professional patent searchers often need to search for CN prior art, and SIPO’s PSS will be a great place to start scoping out a relevant collection of CN patent documents.

Have you used SIPO’s PSS? Tell us about your experiences with the system in the comments.

Technical Translations from Landon IP

This post was contributed by Joelle Mornini. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company Landon IP, a major provider of patent searches, trademark searches, technical translations, and information retrieval services.

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