August 24, 2011

Finding prior patent art with Google, SumoBrain, and PatentScope

Google provides two specialized search engines that are great for finding prior art.  One of them is Google Scholar (discussed at the end of this post) and the other is Google Patents.  Google Patent is great for finding US patent and applications, but doesn't include international patents.
Ok, I'm interested in finding prior art for patent US 7620565.  Why don't we search google by the patent number.
There it is, top result: Customer-based product design module.
Here I can check the patent's bibliographic information, read its abstract, follow links to its US patent citations and if I scroll down further, its claims.
This patent was applied for on August 25, 2006.  I'm going to want to find art prior art before that date.

I can also easily download the entire patent by following the 'Download PDF' link.
There it is.
I'm going to want to check the patent itself for other articles and patents it cites.
Obviously I want to avoid prior art that is already cited.
Since this patent only cites one international patent, I know searching international databases will probably result in finding some excellent prior art.  

But for now let's stick with Google Patent and try searching for 'phone customer interface software'.

Yikes, 27,000 results!  Let's see if we can narrow that down by restricting the results by patent issue date using Advanced search.

Follow the 'Advanced search' link.

You can see Google Patents has already stored our previous word search.
I can limit the patents by selecting a date range from August 1996 to August 2006.  In other words,  I want to include patents issued within 10 years of US 7620565's filing date.

I also have the option to restrict by filing date instead, but I want to use issue date.
14,000 is still a lot of results, but for now let's check out 'Integrated customer interface for web based data management'.
Now's a good time to check back and make sure US 6615258 isn't already cited in US 7620565's patent. It isn't.
You'll notice US 6615258's citations are much more thorough than US 7620565, with over 200 US patents alone.  Unfortunately Google Patent doesn't include a list of international citations.  Obviously we could always download the patent and check it ourselves. 
But first let me show you a cool feature of SumoBrain.
First navigate to SumoBrain's homepage and search for US 6615258.
There it is, top result.
Go to the patent's summary page and scroll down…
Until you a list of, not just the domestic patent citations like Google, but international and non-patent as well (Espacenet also provides a list of and links to international cited patents).

Ok, again since I know US 7620565 only cites one international patent and it's not from WIPO, these references are an excellent place to start searching for prior art.
Sumobrain and the Espacenet both include searches for World Intellectual Property Organization's patents, but let's try WIPO's own patent search engine, PatentScope.  Follow the 'Patents' link from the home page.
Now follow the link to 'PatentScope search'.
From here I can do a basic searches of WIPO's database, but since I already know the patents number from the citations, we can search by that.
Follow the 'ID/Number' link.

Check back to the citations list for US 7620565 at SumoBrain and pick one to search for. I picked W0/1999/001826.
Now enter the patent number and search...
PatentScope takes us right to the patent's summary page.  Here I can check the patent's bibliographic information and read the abstract in French, English, or German.

There's a navigation bar that allows to read the different sections of the patent...

Including the claims...
Which can also be translated...
In order to download and view the entire document follow the 'Documents' link.
Here we can download the original patent and updates to it. j
Follow the 'PDF (page numbers)' link.

Now that we're here, why don't we try PatentScope's Field Combination search by follow the link.
Field Combination is my favorite way to search with PatentScope. 
As you can see I have a lot of options, let's search the English text, instead of title of the patents.

Now that I have 'English Text' selected, let's search for 'phone customer shopping interface'.
Let's look at PatentScope's Help section to check the syntax required to limit the results by issue date.

Follow the 'Query Syntax' link.
There are several useful tips on searching with PatentScope but let's scroll down…
Until we get to the section on limiting results by date range.
Looks like one format I can use to restrict results by a date range is:


But when I go to enter the date range of April 15, 1994 to April 15, 2004, I accidentally make a mistake and set the date range just April 15, 1994.

PatentScope has a cool feature that let's me know the number of results before I even search.  Since I have zero results I know to look back at my terms and fix the date range to April 15, 2004, not 1994.

2,646 results looks much more promising!
Now I have several options to sort my search results, but for now we'll scroll down...
And check out the third result, 'Billing Service System and Method'.
Again I can read the patents abstract and check the bibliographic information.  Let's go directly to downloading the patent by following the 'Document' link.

Unfortunately not all of WIPO's patents are in a single file, especially when, like this one, it's a patent issued from the European Patent Office and not WIPO.  We'll have to download and unzip sections of the patent.
As you can see the files drawings are stored in separate tif files.
That I can open to view...
And read the patent's claims and description in French, English, or German.

Now I strongly prefer to have the patent's original documentation and in one file, but we're in luck because remember SumoBrain and Espacenet have copies of the EPO's patents as well.  
Let's return to SumoBrain and try searching for 'EP 1282887'.
We get no results but that's because SumoBrain's default search only includes US patents.

To include the EPO in our search, follow the 'Search' link to Advanced search.
Enter the patent's number...
And select the 'EP Documents' collection to be included.
There it is, top result.
Here's the patents bibliographic information and if I scroll down…
I can download the one-file original patent directly from SumoBrain…
By following the 'View/Download PDF' link.
Now I can read the entire patent as one document...
And save it...
Now that's much easier to read through than the separate files from WIPO. Now let's try to find the original patent with Espacenet.
Obviously we should be able to find any patent that begins with 'EP' with Espacenet.  Just type the patent's number into SmartSearch…
And there it is, let's check to see if we can download the patent.
Follow the 'Original document' link…
It doesn't look like Espacenet has a copy of EP 1282887.
If I check back in the bibliographic data I'll notice this patent has also been published under some different numbers.
Let's follow one of the links to WO 0191066 (A2).
So there it is, the original patent in one single file for me to download.
Just click 'Download'.
Although Google Patents is great for searching US patents, it doesn't always have the most up to date owner of a patent.  The best tool for figuring out who owns a US Patent is the USPTO's Patent Assignment search.
I have a number of different options to search for who is assigned what patents.

But since I know the patent number of the one I'm interested in, I'll just enter it: '7620565'.
Although according to Google Patents the assignee of US 7620565 is Daniel Abelow, I can see here that it has been reassigned to Intellectual Venture's spinoff Lodsys.
Now I know the most up to date assignee information for US 7620565.  Now who do you think might be interesting in finding prior art for this patent? 
Ok, finally now to Google Scholar.  Google Scholar actually includes Google Patents in its searches, but its results also include both US and international non-patent literature from.
Let's start by trying to search for the title of an interesting reference from US 6615258, 'the electronic commerce juggernaut'.
M Edward's article does show up in the results...
But unfortunately looks to be behind some pay-per article library and in Russian!

Let's go back and try an Advanced Scholar Search instead.
From here we have several options to help refine our search results. Let's instead search for 'electronic phone commerce software'.

And restrict the results to be published between 1996 and 2006.
There's definitely some great prior art here...

Which we can limit to links who include at least a summary.
Let's scroll down and check out one of the results...

"Electronic commerce: state of the art" looks very promising.  Best of all it looks to be free, just follow the link...

Back to Patent-Ed's Visual Guides to finding prior art  >>

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