If you are familiar with how to search patents on Google, let’s take your prior art search a notch higher by looking at how to do an advanced patent search using Google Patents.
Google patents is a massive but free patent database having over 11 million granted patents and over 6 million patent applications from US alone, to put things in perspective. It additionally covers several patent publications from patent offices across the globe. See the below graphic to get an idea of the patent offices covered (you can find the countries from these codes).
Let’s move on. To start with the advanced patent search, you need to access Google Patents Advanced by clicking on the ‘advanced search’ option on the Google Patents homepage (highlighted below)
Alternative, you can also access Advanced Google Patents Search from here.
Once, you click the above option, you will see the below page. Carefully observe the fields in the red box below:
Search terms – The first field titled ‘search terms’ is used to enter keywords. This is similar to the basic google search except that you have a separate field for each keyword (more fields appear as you enter your first keyword).
For each keyword you enter in its filed, the field allows you to enter synonyms in the same field for that keyword. Similarly, you can enter synonyms for different keywords in their respective fields. This takes away the pain of entering lengthy strings with several parenthesis in the Google patents homepage search field. Note that Advanced search automatically does that. See an example of this below:
Date field: The next field, called date field, indicates 3 types of dates – priority date, filing date and publication date. Each of these dates has a different meaning and significance.
The filing date of a patent application means the date on which that particular patent application was filed. The priority date signifies the date on which the earliest patent application was filed from a patent family. For instance, let’s assume a European patent application was filed on August 1, 2014 and it claimed priority from a US application, which was filed on Sep 1, 2013. Here, these dates signify the filing dates of the respective patent applications. However, the priority date for both applications is Sep 1, 2013 because that is the earliest filing from this patent family.
The publication date is the date on which the application was published by the respective patent office.
If you have not yet filed a patent application and are checking for prior art publications, you need not select any date since any document that is in public domain and matches your invention, is a potential prior art for you. However, you need to enter the date if you are comparing an existing patent application against a potential prior art (e.g. while invalidating a patent you may need to select a specific priority/filing date before the priority date of the patent to be invalidated).
Inventor search field: If you know the name of an inventor, you can use this field to enter it. You may want to enclose the name in quotes to enter the exact name.
Assignee patent search: This is an extremely useful field if you want to search using the entity name, that filed the patent. In addition to simply searching patents for a specific assignee, an assignee search can be supplemented with keywords or classes to yield highly relevant results in an FTO search (finding patents on which a product infringes) or a while finding patents for products from a specific assignee.
In the assignee search, a handy feature that Google Patents provides is that once you start entering the assignee name, Google automatically suggests several variations of that name once you click on its autocompleted word. For example, if you enter Samsung, you might see Samsung electronics, Samsung Aerospace, Samsung Heavy Industries etc., which helps you to select a specific assignee name from the available options.
There are some more features in Google Patents Advanced, but they are more of filters than search fields:
Patent office: You can also filter patents by selecting a specific jurisdiction from this option. For a general prior art search, you may not need to shortlist jurisdictions since any global publication can be a prior art. However, while checking for patent risks in an FTO, you may need to shortlist patents only from your desired jurisdictions. This filter is useful in such a scenario.
There’s another utility of this feature – During a prior art search, there are instances when you get several machine translated from non-English speaking countries, which results in clarity issues in shortlisting a relevant prior art. You may just filter any English speaking country first to see if you find a clearly written prior art that is relevant.
Patent status: Patent status is quite useful when checking enforceable patents. For example, during an FTO search when you are looking specifically for granted patents that can be enforced against your product, this feature is effective to filter only granted patents (you can of course select non-granted publications!)
This feature tells you whether a particular patent would have an associated litigation or not. This may not be very useful in your day-to-day prior art search but may be effective if you specifically want to check litigation-related cases in a specific technical domain using your search criteria.
Let’s look at a couple of additional features that are not directly visible on Google advanced search homepage but become visible when your search results appear.
Side View option:
The first one is side-view option as shown below:
For easier accessibility to search results, you can click this option. You can click on any search result to see the patent on a newly created right-side window pane instead of opening a new browser window. This feature is generally provided in paid tools but kudos to Google for providing such a nifty feature for free.
See below the two panes created – one with your search results and second, with the details of the patent, you selected. You can click on the ‘result list’ option to switch back to the normal view.
Another option you can see in the above images is to download reports. This feature allows you to download a list of several patents offline as per your search criteria in a .csv format (works with MS excel). This is useful if you doing a basic trend analysis over time or want to take some time and review several patents without having to run the same search strings repeatedly.
The report format is quite basic though and would not enable you to do a landscape analysis or a detailed trend analysis across assignees or any other complex criteria. However, since it’s a free tool, I consider this feature a bonus.
This was I believe one should try a variety of keywords and search strategies to use Google Patents to its full potential for patent search and analysis. Although these features are very effective, the patent search relevancy depends highly on the search queries entered. The more you practice, the better you get at quickly finding out your desired results.
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