Category: Patent Search

Expanding the Scope of Free Global Intellectual Property Databases

The capabilities and scope of freely available global intellectual property (IP) databases are constantly growing.  Recently, TMview and PubChem announced updates that widen their capability for IP search and analysis from various global jurisdictions.

 

IP Australia Joins TMview

IP Australia has joined TMview, a free global online tool from the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) that facilitates word and image trade mark searching from the 74 participating offices around the world.  Over 1.6 million Australian trade marks have now been added to the database.

A range of IP right, bibliographic and legal status information can be searched and investigated, including the words and images constituting the mark, the goods and services protected, ownership, legal status and registration date.  Access to details at the office of origin is also provide.

This news follows closely the announcement that the EUIPO had launched improved versions of both its TMview (trade marks) and DesignView (designs) databases.  The improvements include a wider set of search criteria and abilities to fine tune queries, a function to compare trade marks and designs side-by-side, and the capability to export to PDF, Excel and Word formats.

 

PubChem Chemical Search Enhanced with WIPO Chemical Structures

PubChem is the National Institutes of Health (NIH) open chemistry database that provides the world’s largest collection of freely accessible chemical information.

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) has an extensive searchable database of IP-related chemical data, built through a collaboration with German cheminfomatics software company InfoChem.  This dataset is made available through WIPO’s patent database PATENTSCOPE.

WIPO has recently contributed over 16 million chemical structures to PubChem.  These can be searched within PubChem by name, molecular formula, structure, and other identifiers.  Information including chemical and physical properties, biological activities, safety and toxicity information, patents, and literature citations can be retrieved.  PubChem users also have access to relevant patent information via direct links back to PATENTSCOPE.

 

Overview

These developments expand and advance the provision of freely available intellectual property information.

For those with an interest in the Australian market, who wish to understand the IP landscape there, the provision of Australian trade marks on TMview improves their abilities to conduct such analyses.

Similarly, for anyone working in the chemistry and related fields, WIPO’s contribution to PubChem is a welcome enhancement for accessing comprehensive patent information in such disciplines.

Alistair Curson

 

References

European Union Intellectual Property Network. (2020, April 02). “News: The EUIPO has launched improved versions of TMview and DesignView”. Retrieved April 09, 2020, from: https://www.tmdn.org/tmview/#/tmview/news

European Union Intellectual Property Network. (2020, April 06). “News: Australia joins TMview”. Retrieved April 09, 2020, from: https://www.tmdn.org/tmview/#/tmview/news

European Union Intellectual Property Network. “TMview”. Retrieved April 09, 2020, from: https://www.tmdn.org/tmview/welcome#/tmview

European Union Intellectual Property Network. “Tools”. Retrieved April 09, 2020, from: https://www.tmdn.org/network/iptools

InfoChem. (2019). “InfoChem”. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from: https://www.infochem.de/

IP Australia. (2020, April 07). “IP Australia joins global trade marks database TMview”. Retrieved April 09 , 2020, from: https://www.ipaustralia.gov.au/about-us/news-and-community/news/ip-australia-joins-global-trade-marks-database-tmview

PubChem. “Explore Chemistry”. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from: https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

PubChem Blog. (2020, March 25). “Integration of WIPO’s PATENTSCOPE data with PubChem”. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from: https://pubchemblog.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2020/03/25/integration-of-wipos-patentscope-data-with-pubchem/

World Intellectual Property Organisation. (2020, March 25). “WIPO Contributes Millions of Searchable Chemical Formulas to Database at U.S. National Institutes of Health”. Retrieved April 09, 2020, from: https://www.wipo.int/patentscope/en/news/pctdb/2020/news_0002.html

World Intellectual Property Organisation. “Patentscope: Chemical Compounds Search”. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from: https://patentscope.wipo.int/search/en/chemc/chemc.jsf?new=true

IPONZ Online Case Management Improvements

The New Zealand Intellectual Property Office (IPONZ) recently published a number of improvements to both its website and online case management facility.  These are summarised below:

 

Patent Cases: Search by Patents Act

New Zealand’s patent law landscape changed significantly a few years ago with the enactment of the Patents Act 2013, aligning the law more closely with other international jurisdictions.

Under the previous 1953 Act, patentability within New Zealand required relative novelty (i.e. was the invention new within the prior art base of New Zealand only).  The 2013 Act introduced, among other things, examination practices that require absolute novelty, examination for inventive step, and additional subject matter qualification.

The IPONZ patent register search now includes a field (under the Status Search option) to specify the Act under which the cases being searched were examined.

 

Patents: Declaration for Amendments After Grant

As part of the maintenance process for patents in New Zealand, there is a facility to request amendments to both pending applications and granted patents under certain circumstances.

Previous, such requests were required to be accompanied by a formal letter declaring that the information provided was correct and that there were no known lawful grounds for objection.  This declaration is now included as a field in the online request form.

 

Trade Marks: Partial Renewal of a Subset of Classes

A part of the scope of protection provided by a registered a trade mark is the specification of the goods and services that the mark is intended to be used in association with.

The IPONZ trade mark renewal facility now enables owners and agents to select only those classes of goods and services they wish to renew for a specific trade mark registration.

 

Divisional Applications: Ability to Display the Full Chain

A divisional patent application is a provision within the Paris Convention 1883, where an applicant is able to “divide” out one or more claims from an earlier parent application.  Although the divided application cannot extend the subject matter beyond that which was covered in the parent application, it will typically retain the filing and priority dates of the parent.

Usually, the filing of a divisional application is pursued when a patent examiner has objected to the parent application on the grounds of a lack of unity of invention.  In other words, the parent application is considered to claim more than one invention or inventive concept.  To address this, the appropriate claims are divided into child divisional applications, each one having a single unity of invention.

Trade mark applications can also be divided to remove goods and services that conflict with other marks whilst retaining a part of the original application.

The bibliographic display of the IPONZ case register now interactively shows the hierarchical relationship of IP cases related by divisional practices.

 

Renewal Fee Reminders: Inclusion of the Renewal Due Date

IP rights have to be renewed and maintained in accordance with the Acts and other regulations that govern them, if they are to remain in force.

IPONZ has improved the email notifications it sends as reminders of upcoming renewals.  The renewal date is now included in the subject line and the body of these email messages.

Alistair Curson

 

References

AJ Park. (2014, September). “New Zealand’s new Patents Act 2013: The key differences between the Patents Act 1953 and the new Act”. Retrieved October 22, 2019, from: https://www.ajpark.com/assets/Uploads/New-Zealands-new-Patents-Act-2013-The-key-differences-between-the-Patents-Act-1953-and-the-new-Act.pdf

Bainbridge D. (2012). “Intellectual Property.” 9th edn, Pearson Education Limited, Harlow, England.

Curson A. (2019, April 16). “New Division and Merger of International Trade Mark Registrations in New Zealand”. Retrieved October 22, 2019, from: http://adcpatentsearch.co.nz/IP_Analytics_NZ/?p=139

Macaskill, D. (2013, September 12) “New dawn for the New Zealand Patent Landscape – the New Patents Act”. Retrieved October 22, 2019, from: http://www.mondaq.com/NewZealand/x/260548/Patent/New+Dawn+for+the+New+Zealand+Patent+Landscape+the+New+Patents+Act

New Zealand Intellectual Property Office. (2019, October 10). “Improvements to the IPONZ online case management facility”. Retrieved October 22, 2019, from: https://www.iponz.govt.nz/news/improvements-to-the-iponz-online-case-management-facility-6/

New Zealand Intellectual Property Office. “Apply for a patent”. Retrieved October 22, 2019, from: https://www.iponz.govt.nz/about-ip/patents/apply/

New Zealand Intellectual Property Office. “Apply for a trade mark”. Retrieved October 22, 2019, from: https://www.iponz.govt.nz/about-ip/trade-marks/apply/

New Zealand Intellectual Property Office. “Maintain a patent”. Retrieved October 22, 2019, from: https://www.iponz.govt.nz/about-ip/patents/maintain/

New Zealand Intellectual Property Office. “Renew a trade mark”. Retrieved October 22, 2019, from: https://www.iponz.govt.nz/about-ip/trade-marks/renew/

Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property 1883, Art. 4G. Retrieved October 22, 2019, from: https://www.wipo.int/treaties/en/text.jsp?file_id=288514#P83_6610

Wikipedia. (2019, September 18). “Divisional patent application”. Retrieved October 22, 2019, from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divisional_patent_application

World Intellectual Property Organisation. “Nice Classification”. Retrieved October 22, 2019, from: https://www.wipo.int/classifications/nice/en/

New Japanese Imperial Era: Retrieval of Japanese Patent Information

On 30th April 2019 Emperor Akihito of Japan abdicated and his son Emperor Naruhito acceded to the Chrysanthemum Throne on 1st May.  This marked the end of the Imperial Heisei era and the beginning of the Reiwa era.

In this post I look at how the Japanese Imperial eras define the calendar dates and passage of time in many Japanese documents, including (in previous years) patents and patent applications.

Although the Japanese Patent Office started using Gregorian calendar years in 2000 and no longer uses the Imperial calendar, searching, retrieving and analysing older Japanese patents and applications still requires knowledge of the Imperial calendar system.

 

A History of the Japanese Patent Numbering System

Many aspects of Japanese society mark time by the Imperial calendar – the eras defined by the reigns of individual emperors.  Japan first adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1873, however, the extent of usage of the two systems varies.  The Japanese Patent Office, as an example, used the Imperial system up until 2000.

Within the Imperial calendar, one era ends and a new era starts with the accession of a new emperor.  The remainder of the corresponding Gregorian year then represents the first year of the new Imperial era.  Full subsequent Imperial years are then counted in synchrony with the Gregorian calendar, until the accession of a new emperor and the beginning of a new era.

To illustrate this, let’s look at the last three emperors of Japan in the figure below.

 

Sources:

Wikipedia. (2019, May 25). “Akihito”. Retrieved May 26, 2019, from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akihito

Wikipedia. (2019, May 26). “Hirohito”. Retrieved May 26, 2019, from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hirohito

Wikipedia. (2019, May 26). “Naruhito”. Retrieved May 26, 2019, from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naruhito

 

Emperor Hirohito came to the Chrysanthemum Throne on 25th December 1926, and his era was known as Showa.  When he died on 7th January 1989, Emperor Akihito acceded to the Chrysanthemum Throne, and the Heisei era began.  Emperor Akihito abdicated on 30th April 2019, and Emperor Naruhito acceded, thus beginning the Reiwa era.

1926 is the first year of the Showa era (S1), 1927 is the second Showa year (S2) etc.  1976 (Showa 51) is when the Patent Abstracts of Japan database began (containing bibliographic information of published unexamined patent applications).  The Showa era ended in 1989.  This year is Showa 64 up until the accession of the new emperor, when it becomes the first year of the Heisei era (H1).  Documents published in that year will have either a Showa 64 or Heisei 1 designation depending upon the exact date of publication.

Similarly, Heisei 2 is 1990 and so on through out the reign of Emperor Akihito.  The Japanese Patent Office (JPO) used the Imperial calendar up until 2000, when it then switched to using the Gregorian calendar for dates assigned to new patent publications.  Thus, the last documents published by the JPO using the Imperial calendar system were published in 1999 (Heisei 11).

The Heisei era ended on 30th April 2019 (Heisei 31) and the first year of the Reiwa era began the following day.

 

Types of Japanese Patent Documents

There are three main types of national Japanese patent documents.

The first are Kokai, or the publication of an unexamined patent application.  These are usually identified with a kind code “A”.

The second (relevant to patents prosecuted prior to 1996) are Kokoku, or the publication of an examined patent application.  These are typically identified with a kind code “B”.  After 1996, Japanese patent law changed and Kokoku documents were no longer published.

The third are Toroku, or the publication of a granted patent.  These are identified with a kind code “B”.

 

Retrieval of Japanese Patent Documents

When identifying, searching and retrieving Japanese patent documents, it is necessary to have an understanding of the numbering formats of the different document types discussed above.  The formats of each of three document types are illustrated in the following figure.

 

Toroku documents (on the right of the figure) are the simplest, having a two-letter country code “JP”, a seven-digit document number, and the kind code “B” suffix.

Kokai and Kokoku are a little more complex.

Kokoku documents (centre) have a two-letter country “JP”, a two-digit Imperial year code (corresponding to the Imperial era discussed above), followed by a six-digit document number, and the kind code “B” suffix.

Prior to 2000, Kokai documents (left of the figure) followed the same format as Kokoku documents, except that they have an “A” kind code.  From 2000 onwards, the two-digit Imperial year code was replaced with a four-digit Gregorian year – the other parts of the number format remained the same.

When working with Japanese patent documents, it is important to accurately identify the document concerned by careful consideration of the procedural stage and the year of publication, which may not be immediately obvious if one is not familiar with the various date formats described in this post.

Additionally, care should be taken to understand how specific databases require publication numbers to be entered.  If not, there is a risk of falsely assuming a document is not available in the database, when in fact it is, or worst, end up retrieving the wrong document.

 

Avoiding Pitfalls

Common pitfalls to avoid include determining whether or not the database you are using requires additional information such as an “S” or “H” within the publication number to distinguish the Showa and Heisei eras.  Some databases are indexed this way.

In such databases, JP54123456A would be searched as JPS54123456A, and JP10123456B would be searched as JPH10123456B.  Omitting this additional information can result in a document not being retrieved when it is actually available.

Further, documents from the early Heisei era can sometimes be presented with the leading zeros of the Imperial year omitted.  Thus, JP01123456 may come to you initially as JP1123456, which can easily be misinterpreted as a Toroku (granted) document rather than a Kokai (published application).

It is important to treat such documents carefully by first identifying the procedural stage you expect, and as necessary applying the right imperial year code to ensure the correct document is retrieved and worked with.

It is always advisable to double-check the documents you are working with by crossing-checking against other information such as application and priority data, document title, or other published family members.

Alistair Curson

 

References

European Patent Office. (2019, May 14). “Numbering system – Japan”. Retrieved May 26, 2019, from: https://www.epo.org/searching-for-patents/helpful-resources/asian/japan/numbering.html

Japan Patent Office. “Searching for Patents, Utility Models, Designs, Trademarks”. Retrieved May 26, 2019, from: https://www.jpo.go.jp/e/faq/yokuaru/searching.html

Korteman J. (2019, April 01). “How to Read a Japanese Calendar”. Notes of Nomads. Retrieved May 03, 2019, from: https://notesofnomads.com/japanese-date-system/

Reynolds I, Mori K. (2019, May 01). “Japan’s New Emperor Naruhito Ascends World’s Oldest Monarchy”. Bloomberg. Retrieved May 03, 2019, from: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-04-30/japan-s-new-emperor-naruhito-to-ascend-chrysanthemum-throne

Wikipedia. (2019, May 25). “Akihito”. Retrieved May 26, 2019, from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akihito

Wikipedia. (2019, May 26). “Hirohito”. Retrieved May 26, 2019, from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hirohito

Wikipedia. (2019, May 26). “Naruhito”. Retrieved May 26, 2019, from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naruhito

World Intellectual Property Organisation: Handbook on Industrial Property Information and Documentation. (2005, December). “Presentation of Application Numbers”. Retrieved May 03, 2019, from: https://www.wipo.int/export/sites/www/standards/en/pdf/07-02-01.pdf

New Online Patent Search Tools

Many national and regional patent offices provide access to their public patent information via their own online tools.  Often these can be extremely valuable in accessing information that may not be available from any other source, even if it means working in unfamiliar languages.

As recently reported by the European Patent Office’s Asian Patent Information Service, three offices have launched new services, or new versions of existing services, within the last month alone – Hong Kong, Malaysia and Russia.

 

Hong Kong

https://esearch.ipd.gov.hk/nis-pos-view/

The Hong Kong Intellectual Property Department launched its New Integrated IT System on 14th February 2019, replacing the IPD Online Search System.

The system enables searching of Patents, Trade Marks and Designs, and the interface is available in English as well as both Traditional and Simplified Chinese.

There is both a quick search facility and a fairly comprehensive advanced search.

Accessible data include bibliographic information, fee payment data, legal status information and published documents.  Users may also download individual results as PDF or XML files, or export result lists in various formats.

 

Malaysia

https://iponline2u.myipo.gov.my/myipo/www/

A new version of the IP Online system from the Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia (MyIPO) was recently launched.

This tool enables searching of Malaysian IP Rights including Patents, Trade Marks, Industrial Designs and Geographical Indications

With an English interface the search capability is reasonably comprehensive.  One point to note is that registration is required.

 

Russia

https://yandex.ru/patents

On 5th March 2019, the Russian Patent Office and the technology company Yandex launched a collaborative project making Patents and Utility Models published by the former Soviet Union and the Russian Federation available online.

The search features are currently relatively limited, and the interface only appears available in Russian.

Yandex itself is the largest internet search engine in Russia, and this new product is more akin to Google Patents in that it is a patent-related dataset accessible via an internet search engine.

 

Overview

Sometimes local patent office websites are the only available source of certain types of patent information from particular jurisdictions.

It’s worth checking out these new resources, as well as those from other jurisdictions of interest, to ensure you’re able to access all the available patent information you possibly can to support the management of your own IP portfolios and strategies.

Alistair Curson

 

References

European Patent Office. (2019, February 21). “Hong Kong: New online search system has been launched”. Retrieved March 15, 2019, from: https://www.epo.org/searching-for-patents/helpful-resources/asian/asia-updates/2019/20190221.html

European Patent Office. (2019, March 01). “Malaysia: New version of IP Online search tool launched”. Retrieved March 15, 2019, from: https://www.epo.org/searching-for-patents/helpful-resources/asian/asia-updates/2019/20190301.html

European Patent Office. (2019, March 05). “Russia: Rospatent and Yandex launch new patent search service”. Retrieved March 15, 2019, from: https://www.epo.org/searching-for-patents/helpful-resources/asian/asia-updates/2019/20190305.html

Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia. (2018). “IP Online Search and Filing”. Retrieved March 15, 2019, from: https://iponline2u.myipo.gov.my/myipo/www/

The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region: Intellectual Property Department. “Online Search System”. Retrieved March 15, 2019, from: https://esearch.ipd.gov.hk/nis-pos-view/

Wikipedia. (2019, January 30). “Yandex”. Retrieved March 16, 2019, from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yandex

Yandex. (2019). “Search Patent Documents”. Retrieved March 15, 2019, from: https://yandex.ru/patents

Patent Searching: Working with Documents Written in Unfamiliar Languages

Before embarking upon a new venture with a new product or process that you’ve invented, an important first step is to conduct a basic patent search.  This will give you a reasonable idea of whether your idea has already been published and whether a third party already has a patent that covers it.

As with many jurisdictions, New Zealand applies a test of absolute novelty, meaning for an invention to be patentable, it must not have been made publicly available at any time, anywhere in the world, by means of written or oral description, by use or in any other way, before the priority date of the patent being sought.

Whilst it’s always a good idea to engage the services of a professional patent searcher and analyst throughout the life cycle of your IP and products, there is still a certain amount of initial work you can do for yourself, such as a basic patent search.  If your search returns documents written in a language with which you’re unfamiliar, this raises the challenge of how to interpret this prior art.

A lack of experience working with various languages should not be seen as a barrier to trying to determine the potential relevance of such documents before dismissing them.

In this post I share a few of the tips, tricks and resources for assessing documents written in foreign languages.

 

Look at the Pictures

A picture paints a thousand words.  Examining the images, figures and drawings within a patent document can often provide a clearer appreciation of the nature of an invention, particularly when the text is either difficult to interpret, or is in an unfamiliar language.

 

Not All Patents Are Purely Monolingual

It is required practice at the European Patent Office that the claims of granted EP patents are published in all three official languages of the EPO – English, French and German.  So, if you need a translation in one of these three languages, a granted EP patent will at least provide you with the claims in your language of choice.

In addition, these documents will provide you with English, French and German keywords for the features you’re searching for in order to expand your searches to documents only published in those languages.

 

Other Equivalents

Along similar lines to the previous point, looking within the patent family may help you find other equivalents (patent family members) that are written in your preferred language.

It’s important to note that these won’t necessarily be direct translations of each other.  Nonetheless, they will provide an indication as to the nature of the invention being protected.

 

Online Translation Engines

Some of the free online patent search tools, as well as many of the commercially available products, provide translation tools built into their display interfaces.  Be sure to identify these where available and make full use of them.  Whereas they don’t provide a substitute for a professional translation, the quality of machine translation is often very high and will provide a good indication as to whether the document you are looking at is likely to require deeper investigation.

Failing this, copying & pasting into, for example, Google Translate will also provide a translation to give you the gist of an invention.

 

EPO Asian Patent Information Virtual Helpdesk

The European Patent Office has a virtual helpdesk for understanding and working with patent information from various Asian and Middle Eastern jurisdictions.  Clear guides are available to help you search and understand IP from these regions:

https://www.epo.org/searching-for-patents/helpful-resources/asian.html

 

Take-Home Message

Don’t let a lack of knowledge or experience working with unfamiliar languages limit your ability to interpret global patent information.  A small amount of careful research as well as making the most of numerous free online tools can help you identify important and valuable prior art that may otherwise have been missed.

These techniques should never replace the practice of engaging an IP professional and translator, but will help you gain a broader, global understanding of the space in which your business operates.

Alistair Curson

 

References

Bhatti, AW. (2017, October 02). “Topic 3: Legal Requirements for Patentability and Typical Parts of a Patent Application”. Retrieved February 04, 2019, from: https://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/mdocs/en/wipo_ip_cnx_17/wipo_ip_cnx_17_3.pdf

Macaskill D. (2013, September 12). “New dawn for the New Zealand Patent landscape – the New Patents Act”. Retrieved February 04, 2019, from: http://www.jaws.co.nz/about-us/media/new-dawn-for-the-new-zealand-patent-landscape-the-new-patents-act

The European Patent Convention. “Article 14: Languages of the European Patent Office, European patent applications and other documents”. Retrieved, February 05, 2019, from: https://www.epo.org/law-practice/legal-texts/html/epc/2016/e/ar14.html

The European Patent Office. (2019, January 17). “Asian Patent Information”. Retrieved February 11, 2019, from: https://www.epo.org/searching-for-patents/helpful-resources/asian.html

Wikipedia. (2019, February 04). “A picture is worth a thousand words”. Retrieved February 05, 2019, from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_picture_is_worth_a_thousand_words

New Version of Espacenet

A few weeks ago, the European Patent Office announced the beta release of the new version of its Espacenet patent search tool.  This post is a brief overview of Espacenet itself and of the beta release.

 

The beta release of Espacenet can be accessed here:

https://worldwide.espacenet.com/beta

The current version can be accessed here:

https://worldwide.espacenet.com/

 

Espacenet

Originally released to the public on 19th October 1998, Espacenet celebrated its twentieth birthday last year.  Following in the pioneering footsteps of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the Japan Patent Office (JPO) and IBM, Espacenet was and is the European initiative to bring the largest freely available collection of patent documents, and the ability to search them, as a public service to the global community via the internet.

 

Data Coverage

Espacenet has the broadest coverage of patent data of any of the freely available patent research tools.  It covers over 100 million published documents from over 100 countries.  Indexed and searchable data fields include title, abstract, description and claims; applicants and inventors; priority, application and publication dates and numbers; IPC and CPC classifications; as well as images, citation data and legal status information.

The new version will continue to sit atop this complete data set, although in the current beta release not all data may be available and this should be borne in mind when using it.

 

Assessment of Beta Espacenet

My immediate impressions are of a clean, modern interface that improves upon the previous (current) version of the tool.  Some parts are not fully intuitive, however with a little patience and experimentation the features and functionality quickly become clear.  Once this relatively easy learning curve is overcome, the tool is very user-friendly.

 

Features and Functionality

Having used Espacenet extensively for many years, I find it a powerful and comprehensive patent research product aimed and suited for general patent searching by the public at large.  Exploring the beta version, I’m pleased to see that none of the features or functionality have been lost.  There are, in fact, some welcome improvements.  Also, there are a few areas which might benefit from re-evaluation.

 

Search

There are various ways of searching databases including:

  1. Simple individual keyword searches (form-based)
  2. Complex, multi-field searches (form-based)
  3. Advanced command-line searches

All three approaches are available in the current version of Espacenet.  Whilst they are also available in Beta Espacenet, only simple keyword searches and advanced command-line searches are presently accessible directly from the primary launch page of the product.  One has to first conduct one of these search types and view the results before being able to access the multi-field search form (labelled “Advanced search”).

Having noted this however, once the Advanced Search option becomes available it is clearly significantly improved upon that available in the current Espacenet.  All of the search fields previously available are present, with some valuable additions such as further text fields and text field combinations.  A very welcome development is the ability to create (via the form) complex queries using not only Boolean operators, but proximity operators and nesting as well.  The display for these complex queries is also a very well-designed graphical display showing clearly how the query terms relate and enabling easy editing.

Source: European Patent Office. “Espacenet Beta”. Retrieved January, 2019, from: https://worldwide.espacenet.com/beta

My only request for further improvement would be to have this advanced search interface available directly from the home page.  In the current beta version, accessing this interface is a two-click process for professionals used to working with this type of interface, whereas those using either simple keyword searching or command-line searching can start working immediately from the home page.

 

Results List

The results list is a clean easy-to-read layout, with various display options, including an image-only display, which can be very useful when searching in certain technical fields.

One negative point is the abstracts (when selected to be shown) are always truncated – one has to view the entire record to read the entire abstract text.  I would recommend an option to expand the abstracts to full in the results list if desired, otherwise remove the abstracts all together.

Records can be checked to select only those of interest, and the list conveniently reduced to display that subset.  One downside is that the interface is currently lacking a select/deselect all function.

There are download, print and “add to My patents” options, but these are hidden behind a vertical ellipsis and so not immediately obvious.

One great feature, is that the results list now displays to an unlimited length, rather than the first 500 records as in the current Espacenet.  It also displays an accurate hit count.  This is very welcome for any level of user as there is limited use in a patent research product if one cannot examine all the results found.

 

Filters

A new feature, and again a welcome one, is the introduction of Filters.  Not only do these enable the user to drill down in their results sets, but they also provide first-level analytics.  This introduces users to the power of patent analytics and enables the identification of other significant search terms, such as key assignees, inventors and patent classifications with which to develop searches.

The filtering function also benefits from the ability to either “apply” or “exclude” the filter selection to the results set.  Although multiple filters can be applied, it appears these can only be applied one at a time, resulting in a multistep process for some activities.  A breadcrumb trail of filter options is also presented enabling the user to undo any filtering option easily, but again only one filter at a time.

Source: European Patent Office. “Espacenet Beta”. Retrieved January, 2019, from: https://worldwide.espacenet.com/beta

 

Document Display

On the desktop version of the application, the results list, filtering options and individual document display are shown in a clean 3-column layout.  By hiding the filter display results in a one third results list and two thirds document display which is very useful.

The layout of the document data is very clean with all the previous fields available:

  • Bibliographic data
  • Description
  • Claims
  • Drawings
  • Original document
  • Citations
  • Legal status
  • Patent family

Of note are the additions of a claims tree (in the claims display) and a clear link to the Common Citation Document of the IP5 (in the citations display).  Both features add a powerful extra level of functionality for understanding an IP right.

The claims tree enables a quick, interactive interface for understanding and navigating the claims structure of a patent to identify the independent and dependent claims.

The Common Citation Document is a real-time application from the IP5 (the patent offices of Europe, Japan, South Korea, China and the USA) enabling users to understand global interest in a patent and its technology through citation activity at these five offices.

Finally, the European Patent Office’s Patent Translate function (a collaboration between the EPO and Google) remains available.  It allows text translation between any of the 28 official languages of the EPO’s 38 member-states, plus Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Russian.

Source: European Patent Office. “Espacenet Beta”. Retrieved January, 2019, from: https://worldwide.espacenet.com/beta

 

Session and Document Management

The My Espacenet feature provides a session log (My queries) and single “folder” (My patents) for managing patents of interest.

My queries is a clean overview of the searches run, with the ability to rerun or delete individual queries.  It does however lack a multi-action function, meaning queries have to be deleted individually.

My patents has the same functionality as the results list, with the same limitations (no select all).  Also, there appears to be no way of clearing the list and emptying the folder for a new project.

 

Cross-Device Responsiveness

The beta version is responsive across different device types.  Having tested it on a smartphone it maintains a positive user experience and retains the necessary functionality.

 

Overall Assessment

This is a beta version and the EPO acknowledges that the functionality, data handling or coverage are not yet at production level.  Nonetheless I found this a very positive and welcome development of a powerful and useful tool.

The current power of Espacenet is retained and developed to a new level with a modern, clean interface.  I would expect the beta version (when released to production) to do the job very well for basic (and more advanced) patent searching.  It is a great first step to accessing the wealth of patent information freely available online for initial patent searches and as a way to support your business and ideas strategy, growth and development.  For any business, organisation or individual, whether familiar with Espacenet or not, I would recommend exploring the tool and providing feedback with your own views and requirements to the EPO (there is a feedback link associated with the beta version).

Alistair Curson

 

References

European Patent Office. (2017, April 26). “Espacenet: free access to over 100 million patent documents”. Retrieved January 14, 2019, from: https://worldwide.espacenet.com/

European Patent Office. (2017, April 26). “Full-text (Databases and search)”. Retrieved January 14, 2019, from: https://worldwide.espacenet.com/help?locale=en_EP&method=handleHelpTopic&topic=fulltext

European Patent Office. (2017, April 26). “The worldwide patent database”. Retrieved January 14, 2019, from: https://worldwide.espacenet.com/help?locale=en_EP&topic=coverageww&method=handleHelpTopic

European Patent Office. (2018, July 19). “Patent Translate”. Retrieved January 15, 2019, from: https://www.epo.org/searching-for-patents/helpful-resources/patent-translate.html#tab1

European Patent Office. (2018, November). “Welcome to Espacenet: free access to over 100 million patent documents”. Retrieved January 14, 2019, from: https://worldwide.espacenet.com/beta

European Patent Office. (2018, December 20). “Data”. Retrieved January 14, 2019, from: https://www.epo.org/searching-for-patents/data.html

Five IP Offices. “Common Citation Document (CCD).”. Retrieved January 15, 2019, from: https://www.fiveipoffices.org/activities/globaldossier/ccd.html

Patent Information News. (2018, September). “20 years ago: 1998: the launch of Espacenet”. Retrieved January 14, 2019, from: https://documents.epo.org/projects/babylon/eponet.nsf/0/26119727DA986026C1258315003E0D7B/$File/patent_information_news_0318_en.pdf

Patent Information News. (2018, September). “Espacenet: the product that revolutionised access to patent information”. Retrieved January 14, 2019, from: https://documents.epo.org/projects/babylon/eponet.nsf/0/26119727DA986026C1258315003E0D7B/$File/patent_information_news_0318_en.pdf