Searching for patents can be hard and risky. Patent applicant often use a variety of technical terms to describe a common concept, and patent examiners can use inconsistent patent codes for inventions in a given area. It is not surprising that many relevant patents are missed.
But what if instead you could draw upon the expertise and knowledge of other patents searchers in the same area? They might have used different keywords and patent codes, and found different patents. They might have found different patents to what you have found - and these different patents may be what you are looking for. This would be like getting a second opinion - and at little cost to yourself.
This of course is the underlying promise of citation searching, which is the basis of AmberScope, our new patent searching tool. To demonstrate this, we might try with a patent filed by Swiss watch company Swatch in 1999 for a Radio telephone timepiece including a SIM card., being US patent 6224254. This has the first claim of:
A radio telephone watch intended to be used in a mobile communication system, said watch including a case and a wristband allowing said watch to be worn on the wrist,
wherein the watch further includes:
a casing associated with a first strand of said wristband and capable of receiving, in a removable manner, a SIM card (Subscriber Identity Module) allowing access to said mobile communication system;
an electronic module arranged in said watch case and allowing access to data stored in said SIM card; and
electric connection means between said SIM card and said electronic module, integrated in said first strand of the wristband.
Given the current interest in Google watches and iWatch, this could be a very valuable patent. But putting aside this potential for now, what could AmberScope tell us about this patent? In the image below, we show the results of a search for US6224254 within AmberScope.
This image below shows the patents connected as forward and backward citations to US6242454, as well as a few of the potentially most important indirect citations (ghost patents, shown in a faded view). There are only 22 patents shown - it does not take that long to review them individually.
Among the ghost patents found is US4847818 for a 'wrist watch telephone', filed by Timex in 1988.
This was apparently missed by the examiner for the Swatch patent, but the examiner for US patent 5144599 filed by Junghans Uhren GmbH in 1990 for a Autonomous radio-controlled timepiece did think that the Timex patent was worth considering. Of interest, this patent does not disclose a wrist phone at all, but instead a means of correcting the time displayed on the watch using a radio signal. This is a quite different invention.
Ordinarily, a patent searcher might say 'what value is this irrelevant patent?', but the value in this patent is that its examiner happened to find a relevant patent, namely the earlier Timex patent.
Since the Timex patent is so relevant, it is worth making this the centre of the network within AmberScope, using the 'more' button, which also shows that this patent has 135 additional forward or backward citations not shown in the map above.
If we start reviewing these patents with the "Next' button (the button on the bottom left of the screen that systematically works its way from the highest AmberScore value in the patent to the lowest), we soon come across US5889737 to Motorola (now owned by Google) filed in 1996.
And which discloses in part:
The device 10 includes an electronic unit 12 intended to be worn, for example, on a user's wrist...The electronics necessary for making a watch, or for that matter, a portable cellular phone, two-way radio or selective radio receiver, such as a pager, are well known in the art, and may be incorporated into the electronic unit 12.
Or in other words, a watch phone. We could also refocus the network on this Motorola patent, but hopefully you have got the idea by now. As a matter of interest, this search was very fast, about 10 minutes start to finish.
Do this Motorola or Timex patent invalidate the Swatch patent? That is for other people to decide. But this point of this blog is that:
- The examiner for the swatch patent US6224254 did a patent search, and found one set of results - which included the Junghen patent.
- The examiner for the Junghen patent did another patent search, and found a second set of results, which included the Timex patent.
- The examiner for the Motorola patent did a third search, and found a third set of results - which included the Timex patent.
Each set of search results is different - which for the Junghans patent is completely understandable, as it is for a very different invention. But the beauty of using AmberScope is that a patent searcher can quickly and easily benefit from all of these searches, and by doing so, benefit from the collective intelligence of the searchers in the network.
Or in other words:
AmberScope can help patent searchers avoid the risk of missing patents already found by other searchers
And who wants to be the patent searcher that not only misses relevant patents, but misses relevant patents already found by other searchers?
Using AmberScope, by the way, does not mean that you should give up your traditional keyword and patent code searches - these still can be valuable. Instead, AmberScope can be used to further explore the 'neighbourhood' of the most promising patents you find using conventional methods to provide a second opinion.
Or, in other words: