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SEARCH - the best-in-class tool that will revolutionise patent examiner searches

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Our customers won’t be able to see it or interact with it directly, and you may not be aware that it’s there, but users of IPO’s patent application service will now be among the beneficiaries of a powerful new patent search tool launched at the IPO this month.

What’s more, the IPO is the first national IP office to implement SEARCH - the name of the cloud-based software - as part of its ongoing ‘world-leading IP environment’ work.  

We spoke to Stephen Otter, IPO Senior Patent Examiner and Search Tools Manager, to find out more about the launch of the tool, and how it will make a difference.  

Magnifying glass looking at a graph

 What is SEARCH?  

Search is a cloud-based, global best-in-class, patent search tool.   

How is it better? 

SEARCH is more powerful and flexible than any patent search software we have used before and equips us with a greater range of tools for making our searches.  

SEARCH’s use of ranking algorithms, text similarity matching and constantly updating search statistics allows our patent examiners to explore new approaches. It vastly improves our ability to analyse and refine our strategy as a search progresses.   

We are scrutinising the same extensive databases of prior art as previously, but with ‘SEARCH’ we should be able to do this with greater efficiency and effectiveness. 

How will users, and ultimately, our customers, benefit?  

The software is likely to bring a number of advantages:  

Best in class: SEARCH brings our primary patent search tool up to date with the best tool of its kind currently on offer from anywhere in the world. 

Relevance: the algorithm in SEARCH will give us results ranked by relevance for the first time. This will speed up identification of any relevant documents.  

Similarity: the text similarity matching function can identify relevant documents automatically when a match is found.   

These and other advances will help us to search more broadly and thoroughly, to ensure we are citing the most relevant details of any similar invention prior to the filing date of the application – or ‘prior art’.

The net benefit is that we can maintain the quality of our searches, and therefore our granted patents, despite the ever-increasing volumes of prior art our examiners need to consider. 

Where did the new tool originate? 

SEARCH is based on next-generation patent searching software developed by the European Patent Office (EPO) for their own patent searches and has been used by EPO examiners over the last couple of years. During this period the IPO and EPO have worked closely to develop the national office version.  

As a result, the IPO is the first national IP Office to implement the software outside EPO. So, IPO customers can be confident their applications will continue to be assessed using state-of-the-art search tools. 

How do you think SEARCH will be received by patent attorneys?  

The IPO is committed to being a pioneer in a world-leading IP environment. By implementing SEARCH, we are embracing the next generation of search tools – the best currently available in the world.  

We anticipate that the IP community will welcome this move. It is likely to reinforce their trust in the quality and accuracy of our patent searches as a result. It’s a significant advance in terms of how we perform patent searches and a fundamental part of ensuring the validity of the patents we grant. 

When will the IPO start using Search? 

We’re already feeling the benefits. Our patent examiners have been undergoing thorough training on SEARCH and I’m delighted to say that it’s already in use for patent searches. 

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