Evaluating Patent Documents in a Patent Search

We all know that patent documents are one of the most important pieces of information in a patent search. There are millions of patent documents available in online databases. The Patent Offices have published them over the decades. Therefore, a simple search strategy may yield a set with hundreds or thousands of patent documents. Consequently, it may not be possible for the searcher to analyse each and every one of those documents.

Patent Search Document Structure

Generally, almost each patent document has predictable format. All contains virtually the same information.

  • Bibliographic information (title, abstract, inventor(s), assignee(s), filing date, priority date, priority document information, citations, etc.)
  • A specification including a detailed description of the invention
  • Claims
  • Drawings if applicable

Patent formats vary from one patenting authority to another. However, they follow the standard and show the same basic information.

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Strategy to Conduct Patent Search

When determining the relevancy of a patent document during a search, a patent searcher will essentially do two things. First, to screen the appropriate parts of the patent for information needed to determine its relevancy to the search. Second, determine the similarities between the invention in hand and the document being reviewed.

The searcher would initially focus on four sections of a patent document to determine relevancy: title, abstract, claims, and drawings. These are explained in more detail with the help of points below:

Patent Title

Patent titles sometimes provide reliable clues for determining the relevancy of a patent. Nevertheless, these vary from the very descriptive to intentionally vague. Moreover, patent titles are relatively short. Thus, you can search quickly for identifying potentially relevant documents.


Abstracts provide summaries of claimed inventions and point to the novel embodiments of the patent document. Thus, you may use abstract to get an overall sense of the invention. As with titles, abstracts are relatively easy to read and can help identify potentially relevant documents.


By reading the claims, the searcher may determine the scope of the patent; however, claims language is often descriptive. The searcher should be able to understand the legalese of various terms used in a patent claims.


Drawings also provide a good tool to visually analyse the patent document. They are especially useful for comparing structural invention disclosures.

After reading one or more of these sections, the searcher may speculate that the patent document may be relevant. He/she can delve deep and study the description to full compare the patent document with the invention disclosure. As a result, the searcher can conclude the relevancy of the document.

Such approach is exemplary only and may vary with each searcher. It may be found that usually a searcher would spend few seconds for few patents. In other cases, a searcher may take minutes or even hours on a single patent document. Such strategies are usually developed over a period of time with experience.

Related Article: Patent Search Types: You Must Know

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