Command Line Interface

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The command line style search interface (CLI) is one of the two major ways in which a searcher can input and run a search query in a database; the other is the search form.

Most people are familiar with search forms: even casual internet users know how to use the Google search bar, for example. The disadvantage to these forms is that they lack flexibility; they must get larger and more complicated as the number of searchable (but distinct) data fields increases. When casually searching the internet using a search engine, in general the most important limiters are keywords. However, in patent searches, there are many distinct bibliographic data fields that can limit a search: for example, publication date, filing date, priority date, assignee, inventor, and national or IPC classification. In addition, users may want to limit their keyword searches to only a particular data field, for example, title, abstract, or claims. To offer all this functionality, search forms often grow large and complex, offering many different text boxes to search in the distinct data fields.

The command line interface simplifies all this, but requires some extra effort and learning on the part of the user. Rather than offering discrete data fields, a CLI only offers one input field: the command line. To use it, searchers generally need to master a list of shorthand commands, or learn a new query language. The acceptable syntax is defined by the database provider itself, and can vary greatly among providers.

  • For example, the CLI used in Minesoft’s PatBase requires users to learn commands that consist of abbreviated data field names. If "FT" is the abbreviation for "Full Text," the command "FT=(dog and collar)" in PatBase will run a search for the words "dog" and "collar" anywhere in the full text of all data collections.
  • In contrast, the CLI used in Thomson Reuters' Delphion requires searchers to use a syntax based on the <in> command and various field names. If "PA" is the abbreviation for "Patent Assignee" in the Delphion system, then the command "(Samsung <in> PA)" will run a search for all documents with "Samsung" listed as the original patent assignee.

The time it takes for a user to learn and become comfortable with a CLI is usually proportionate to their past computer and searching experience. Providers usually maintain a help file or quick reference guide with acceptable syntax that can be used in the search interface.

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