Identify Subject Scope for a Patent Search


Issue that often baffles a beginner searcher is where to start a patent search. It should be understood that all inventions fill a need by solving a problem. The solution to the problem includes what the invention is and what the invention does. This is an important line to draw prior to starting the search.

While performing any patent search, the searcher should try to break the invention disclosure provided by the inventor/client into discrete, searchable features by considering the following questions:

  • What is the problem that the invention is trying to solve?
  • Purpose/function of the invention?
  • What is the invention itself?

There may be multiple ways to define a proper scope of a search. Oftentimes, this is very subjective and varies considerably from one searcher to another. This kind of shows that none of the approach taken may be wrong, and there could be multiple ways to tackle a same search. That said, some of the basic points may be considered which has always provided help to most of the searchers.

If the invention is some physical object, it may be important to break it down into its key components which are essential for the working of the invention. Then the searcher would automatically be able to find important keywords for the search. For example, if the inventor has invented a chair, and in case the claims are unavailable; the searcher may break down the invention as, for instance: A sitting device comprising a platform, two or more legs coupled to the platform and supporting the platform. By writing such a basic exemplary claim, the searcher may be able to find keywords, as highlighted in bold here.

When the invention is a method, it is even more important to very carefully make the distinction between what the invention is and what it does. Here again, the searcher should try to numerate the basic steps involved in the method/process as claimed by the inventor, and try to find the keywords therefrom in addition to understanding the relationship between the various steps.

The above points are very basic in nature, but provide ground rules for starting a patent search. In future articles, we will cover this topic in more detail.

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