Do you need insurance for your patent searches?

We all know that patent searching matters. The results of our searches can affect what can be multi-million investments in new products, outcome or settlements in litigation, expensive patent filings, or the reputation and repeat business of your organisation.   

The current dominant means of patent searching is keyword or class code searching. This can be effective, and there a long list of free and subscription based search engines. 

In contrast, as has been discussed in previous blogs, Ambercite Cluster Searching is based on advanced citation analytics. Unlike traditional searching, it completely ignores the keywords and class codes of the patents it finds - instead assuming that these factors are incorporated in the citation links.  The benefit of this approach is that it can find highly relevant patents that use unexpected keywords or class codes - my favourite user story refers to a key prior art patent that used the obscure term 'carbonic acid gas' instead of the more conventional CO2 or carbon dioxide. But there are many other examples of unexpected keywords or class codes.

So what do we end up with? A couple of previous blogs (here and here) have compared and contrasted Cluster Searching with conventional or semantic searching, and found that:

  • Both type of searching can find highly relevant patents
  • However the results of the Cluster Search can be very different to what can be found by conventional or semantic searching - in other words, Cluster Searching can broaden out the results of an existing search. This is shown in the case summary below.

I think this is a fascinating set of results as it shows:

  • How time consuming conventional searching can be. 595 patents were reviewed, and 418 were found not be relevant at all
  • How focused Ambercites searching is - depending on your choice of settings, Ambercite can return a smaller and more relevant set of results - saving you time when you review them
  • The small amount of overlap. A multi-pronged approach is the clear answer. 

Similar results has been verified by a number of different sources, including some of the largest patent owners in the world.

Hence with conventional searching alone, there is a real risk that relevant and important patents can be missed - and this turn can increase the investment, legal or even reputational risks in your organisation. 

This has led many users to regard Cluster Searching as a form of insurance when used to double check their conventional searches - and we think there is a lot of merit in this. Consider the following four factors that help explain why Cluster Searching can be a form of insurance.


1) Insurance can decrease your risk

Cluster Searching can help increase your likelihood of finding more of the relevant patents. Finding even a single relevant patent missed by other techniques can save, for example, a large and potentially wasted investment in an area where IP protection may be weak or there may even an Freedom to Operate risk. Or it can change the outcome of litigation by weakening the position of the other side.

Conversely, Cluster Searching can show when you may have found all of the relevant patents - giving you greater confidence to take the next step in your project.


2) Insurance can be easy to arrange

Insurance, at least in its online form, can be easy to arrange. In many cases you can buy this online in a minimum of time.

And the same applies to Cluster Searching. We get feedback all of the time about how easy it is use. You don't need to make any assumptions about keywords or class-codes - all you need is some starting patents, and then you then run a search in seconds. Very little training is required, and if you like you can pre-filter out any patent families you have previously seen.


3) Insurance can be very cost-effective compared to not having insurance

Insurance can be very cost-effective compared to the potential risks of not having insurance. Cluster Searching too can be a very cost-effective form of insurance for your patent searching outcomes, particularly if in widespread use in your organisation (and it needs to be, otherwise you are only partly insured).

The cost per user to use Cluster Searching can be very low. Because it is so fast and easy to use, it can be used at both the start and end of every search project, by all of your searchers. It can take them as little as five minutes to check their existing results. By doing so, they will have gained the full benefit of this 'insurance'.


4) You don't need to claim on insurance every week to make it worthwhile.

One final thing about insurance is that you don't have to claim on it every week to make it worthwhile. While Cluster Searching should almost always give you relevant patents, sometimes you may have already found these patents via a conventional searching process.

To this, we would say 'well done!' - obviously your existing searching processes are working well.

Just like my driving, touch wood - it has been many years since I made a car insurance claim. But regardless of this, I am still happy to re-insure my car every year, because I know that this is a much lower cost than the potential risk and cost of not insuring my car. You just never know what may happen out there. And such thinking may be behind the over 18,000 Cluster Searches done to date. 


Summary of the benefits of 'insurance' for your patent searches

To summarize, many our clients regard Cluster Searching as a form of insurance on their patent searches. And by ensuring that every patent search is double-checked by this very affordable form of insurance, your company and your clients can reduce the risks and potentially large costs of making important investment and legal decisions based on what could otherwise be incomplete data - while protecting your reputation at the same time. 

Gavan Farley