How to use Keyword sets in Patent Search

Keywords represent the set of keywords or nomenclature that are used by an inventor to describe the various components of the invention. It is one of the most important tools used by a patent analyst to efficiently craft successful search strategies which yield the set of closest prior arts in a given time. Though a prior art search is a never-ending process, one must complete the same within a specific time period to ensure the economic viability of the prior art search.

Developing an effective search strategy is a crucial step for conducting a prior art search. One needs to be fully aware of the various search terms that can be a part of the search strategy and their appropriate usage. Out of the various search terms, the keyword is critical for any search strategy. With other search terms the possibility to broaden or narrow down the search string is limited while that is not the case with keywords-based search strings. Further, to narrow the class-based search string, assignee-based search string, inventor-based search string or citation analysis, the keywords are predominantly used to get the expected number of patent hits. Also, if the patents are not accurately classified in the respective patent classification, it can be extremely difficult to extract the respective patent using only classification-based search. Therefore, it is crucial to master the art of shortlisting and using the appropriate keywords as per the search logic.

Keyword Sets: The Creation

As the keywords are used to describe the invention in writing, the inventor can use dictionary words, technical jargons, his own lexicography, and other types of nomenclature approaches to describe the various components and workings of the invention. Therefore, to ensure a successful prior art search, it is crucial to select and use all the possible synonyms of the keywords before beginning the search.

Generally, the undermentioned steps are followed for preparing the search keywords:

  • Extract the terms/keywords from the invention disclosure shared by client.
  • Fetch the synonyms of the search terms.

Further, the synonyms are sanitized as per the technology domain to ensure that the occurrence of junk patents during patent search is either eliminated or limited.

Given below is an impact story to help you better understand this concept.

The Project

Recently, Sagacious IP’s team undertook an interesting assignment related to a portable cloth drying apparatus. The client had already filed the provisional patent application and had also conducted the prior art search using ‘Do it Yourself (DIY)’ patent searching approach. He was assured that there was no closest prior art in the domain and that he just needed a professional search report to secure the investment for his inventive product.

To begin the project, we followed the general methodology of conducting a non-patent literature search and quick patent search on open patent database to familiarise ourselves with the technology domain. Thereafter, we worked on preparing the search terms that would be used for conducting prior art search on the paid patent database.

After carefully shortlisting the keywords and synonyms, the following keyword sets were prepared for the project.

  • Cloth: (Clothes or Dress or fabric or textile)
  • Drying: (dry or desiccation)

Now, for drying there were a limited set of synonyms as per the technology domain of the search. In cases where the synonyms are limited, it is important to apply the “Verb Rule”. As per this rule, we used the verb form of the keyword as a synonym. As the basic function of drying in this invention was to remove water, therefore, we used this verb form i.e. remove water and related synonyms in our term sets. The new keyword set was as follows:

  • Drying: (dry or desiccation) or ((remove+ or eliminate + or clear or discharge or drain) 4D (water or liquid? or moisture))

Using the above term sets, we developed our search strategy and initiated the searching and analysis process. Our search revealed a few patents that were close to the inventive concept. However, a few features were still missing in them. We thoroughly analysed those patents and observed that in one of the embodiments of the patent, the terms “evaporation” and “dehydration” were used to describe the drying phenomenon. On spotting this, we immediately updated our search set and included the two words. The updated keyword set as per the new information was as follows:

  • Drying: (dry or desiccation or evaporation or dehydration) or ((remove + or eliminate + or clear or discharge or drain) 4D (water or liquid? or moisture))

Finally, we identified one spot on the prior art. It was a granted patent that was the exact copy of the inventive concept. Through this exercise, we learnt that we could have missed the crucial result had we not revised the keyword set with updated information from patent search.

Project Outcome

An effective search strategy helped us conduct a successful prior art search. The client was pleased with the search results and decided to make a licensing deal with the applicant of the prior art granted patent.

The success of a search strategy is ultimately decided by the quality of search terms used during the search process. Therefore, one must not restrict the search with the keyword set prepared during the initial phase of searching. Any new information obtained during the ongoing search should be used effectively for updating the search strategy. Ultimately, an effective prior art search helps an inventor make an informed decision about the fate of their patent application at the patent office.

-Rohit Kumar (Engineering) and the Editorial Team

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