Researcher Tip #2: How to Choose Great Keywords for Patent Research
We at the Patent Olympiad are delighted to partner with RWS and Article One Partners (AOP) as our partners for this event. In addition to supporting the Patent Olympiad with sponsorship, RWS and AOP have also generously offered the use of their proprietary web-based platform, AOP Connect™, as the patent research submission platform for the Patent Olympiad.
In the days to come, we will be featuring a series of guest posts from RWS and AOP, covering everything from basic preparation for patent research to an overview of the AOP Connect™ platform. Note: these tips are NOT official instructions for the Patent Olympiad exam. We do hope you find them useful as reminders, ideas, and background.
Have tips of your own to share? Feel free to respond in the comments!
Researcher Tip #2: How To Choose Great Keywords for Patent Research
Great Keywords...Great Searches
For many projects, keywords will be a key driver for your search.
If you have a target patent, your first keywords will typically originate from the patent description and patent claims. The most successful keywords will represent the detailed aspects of the technology that make it unique and different from any other patent.
Your search should not simply rely on a few words from the patent. To create a truly successful search strategy, you must develop your keyword strategy based on your understanding of the technology.
For example, a patent search about a cell phone should not focus solely on cell phones. It should focus on the exact characteristics that make that specific cell phone unique.
Successful researchers will use a revolving set of search terms to successively narrow the focus of the search.
Selecting Keywords: Specificity For Success
The more difficult question is: how do you select the best keywords for your search?
Based on the patent description or abstract of your target patent, combined with the knowledge you’ve gained through background searching, you should have a preliminary list that represents a general description of the technology.
For each patent, the most important areas to help narrow this list are the patent claims and your research requirements.
The patent claims define the technology. You can use them to focus on the two to three elements that make the technology unique. Once you’ve identified the elements, one way to choose keywords is to select one base keyword for each feature of the invention.
Typically, the more specific technical terms are the most important. General terms are more likely to be available in a wide variety of references.
In addition, as experienced researchers know, using a single keyword when conducting a search will usually yield too many unrelated or irrelevant references. In order to find a reference with multiple elements, it is important to utilize combinations of keywords.
Once you have narrowed your list based on these specific technical terms, your goal is to find a piece of literature that matches as many of these distinguishing elements as possible.
Generating Keywords by Organizing Claims
One way to generate an initial set of keywords is by organizing the target claim or claims.
Below is an example using the first claim of a battery charger patent:
A monolithic battery charger comprising: a step-down converter having a duty ratio in the range of approximately 10 to approximately 95 and comprising at least one monolithically formed buck-type regulator coupled to a capacitor and an inductor, wherein at least one monolithically formed buck-type regulator comprises a switching controller, a switch, and a rectifier in a standard buck configuration, and wherein the controller operates at a switching frequency of at least 1 megahertz; and a battery-terminal interface connected to the step-down converter for providing an output current and an output voltage to a rechargeable battery.
These claims can be divided into sub-elements to drill down the specific features required for the claim. Notice that in each sub-feature, some key terminologies already appear. These terminologies help to indicate which keywords are the most important.
The first line of the patent claim typically gives a clue to the specific type of technology being researched.
In the example given above, the general area of technology is that of a battery charger. The next lines list more specific features of the battery charger.
The general terms are very helpful in learning about the technology. However, this chart demonstrates that the technology is unique based on the detailed characteristics, such as “switching frequency” and “step-down converter.” These are the elements that a relevant reference needs to include.
But there's more...
Good keywords, of course, are only part of a successful search strategy. It's not just that you shouldn't use keywords alone – it's also that the context and location of the keywords matters.
The practice of organizing the claims and using them to generate keywords is based on this knowledge. The location of a keyword within a patent document isn't the only clue to a keyword's importance, but it is an important one. We will examine the anatomy of a patent in the next Research Tip.
Your Tips and Stories?
At RWS and AOP, we are proud that our research community consists of Researchers with a wide range of backgrounds. Our Researchers include technical specialists with first-person industry experience, patent experts with expertise in global patent databases, and research professionals adept at identifying obscure evidence. We believe the members of the Patent Olympiad community are similar.
The tips in this series are some of the useful practices that we share within the AOP community.
We would love to hear your tips and insights. Are there any techniques you find useful when generating and selecting keywords?