Report:Google Patent Search/Search Syntax/Summary of Limitations

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Summary: Limitations of the Search Engine

The limitations of this system begin with data quality, which is discussed in the Full Text Coverage section of this article. There are also limitations related to viewing the results of a search string, which are discussed in the Viewing Results sections of this article, beginning with The Hit List. In addition to these, there are also some limitations that are specific to the search engine itself, which at first seem out-of-place given Google’s history as a search engine provider. These are summarized below.

  • Searches cannot be conducted for patents published or filed on a single, specific date.
  • Searches cannot be limited to the abstract, description or claims sections only. Such limitations can sometimes help users target more relevant documents and discard others that are not as likely.
  • Truncation cannot be used for keywords. This means every variation of a word, including plurals, irregular forms and various conjugations must be written out as keywords. For example: in other systems users might truncate a keyword as “stabl*” to retrieve different forms of the word “stable”, while in Google Patents users must type (stable or stabilize or stabilized or stability) in place of the truncated search term.
  • No proximity operators may be used in the search engine. For example, there is no way to search for the word “humane” as it appears within 10 words of “mousetrap,” to find patents that might describe a “mousetrap which offers the benefit of killing mice in a humane manner.” This kind of search can be very useful for producing targeted results, while still finding relevant patents that do not contain the exact phrase of interest.


editors note iconEditor's Note:

The lack of ability to limit search terms to the claims section might be seen as a hindrance for those wishing to find results related to an infringement or clearance concern; however, this is somewhat immaterial, since it cannot be stressed enough that this database should never be used as a primary tool for such legal investigations anyway.

Overall, the limitations in Google Patents’ search functions are caused by the company applying the same search engine to patents as it applies to the web at large. Patent searchers require a different, more varied set of search tools to adequately construct sound search logic, such as truncation and proximity operators, and more field-limited searching options.

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