Report:PatBase Express/Viewing Results/The Hit List
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The Hit List
What sets PatBase and PatBase Express apart from other search engines is that patent records are always displayed as part of their larger patent family. This important characteristic gives a very different user experience and provides both important advantages and disadvantages in comparison to engines that display only individual documents. This feature also makes it difficult to empirically compare PatBase data coverage against other search engines, because an entire patent family, which may contain dozens of individual members, is counted as a single hit. Because family duplication is eliminated, the number of records in PatBase hit lists can sometimes appear artificially small against the number of patent documents that actually fit the query criteria.
PatBase Express displays results in a condensed fashion, with only a title, the document number of the representative family member, a portion of the abstract, the owner/assignee, and the publication date from the representative family member shown for each result. The user can see a representative image by holding the cursor over the title, access the record by clicking on the title, or view a list of citations by clicking on the "Similar Patents" link under each result. PatBase Express groups ten records on a page; it is not possible to change the number of viewable records. The default is to display results sorted by relevance, but there is also an option to sort the list by date (newer records first). The hit list display also includes links to the Visual Explorer, Snapshot feature, and Optimise search feature, which are discussed further below.
The Visual Explorer
The Visual Explorer tool, introduced in March 2011, is a clustering and visualization tool where the user can "explore the significance of results according to a breakdown by key criteria of interest, taken from the first 2000 records within a results set." Users can access the Visual Explorer tool by selecting the "Explore" icon in the menu above the hit list. The Visual Explorer screen allows users to choose from four different criteria options (users can return to search results by selecting the "back to search results" link):
- Keywords - This pictorial breakdown appears by default. Main keywords from the result set appear in a pin wheel (with broad terms at the center of the wheel and narrower terms in the outer rings), and users can expand or collapse certain sections of the wheel by selecting the pink arrows. A user can select a keyword within the wheel to view a list of records (one record at a time) corresponding to that keyword. These records can be added to "My list" (see the Flagging Results section of this report for more information), or the user can select to return to the Visual Explorer image by clicking the link "back to visual explorer" (the interactive image is also displayed at the bottom of each relavent record).
- Keywords+ - This provides a visual breakdown of keywords occurring within the Title and Abstract, combined with the complete definition of the main IPCs occurring in the results set. The Visual Explorer image for "keywords+" is in the same format as the "keywords" image (an interactive pinwheel).
- Applicants - This provides a visual breakdown of Assignees occurring within the results set (inventor and assignee duplicates are automatically removed). This Visual Explorer image displays a box broken into multi-colored sections, and each section contains the name of an "applicant". The user can select a section to view a list of records corresponding to that applicant.
- IPC Class -This provides a visual breakdown by the International Patent Classification (IPC) system within the results set. The Visual Explorer image for "IPC Class" is in the same format as the "keywords" image (an interactive pinwheel, with broader IPC classes towards the center of the wheel and narrower classes in the outer rings).
Users can right click on the Visual Explorer images to save the images in JPEG or PNG formats or to print the image.
The Snapshot Feature
In 2009, Minesoft added the "Snapshot" feature to both its PatBase and PatBase Express products to provide a quick overview of a search results set. This feature is accessible directly from the hit list by selecting the "Snapshot" icon in the menu above the search result list. The Snapshot analysis screen will open in a new window.
Only the first 2500 results in the data set are used to produce the Snapshot. When this option is chosen, a graphical overview is presented of four properties of the selected data set: IPC classes, applicant names, countries of publication, and US classes. In addition, a breakdown of the data set by publication year is always shown in the top panel of the Snapshot.
Each graph within the Snapshot can be converted to a pie chart, and users have the option to save each graph as a separate image file (JPEG, PNG, or PDF). Options on the left menu of the snapshot page include the ability to save the output as a PDF document, save the chart data as an XLS spreadsheet, or print the page. (Note that the XLS spreadsheet will contain the data necessary to reproduce the chart in Excel, e.g. number of documents published per year, rather than any individual patent bibliographic data.)
The Snapshot is an interactive display. The graph of publication year is static, but it can be used to filter the graph in the lower panel by limiting the display to a particular decade or year for further analysis. Furthermore, in the dynamic lower panel, users may select any element of the bar or pie chart to see a further breakdown of the selected year, country, etc.
In the example below, a chart of the US classes in the data set was limited to those US classes on documents published in the 1980s by selecting the bar labeled "1980s" in the upper portion of the graph. The display was then further limited to only those US classes related to class 126 by selecting the "Stoves and Furnaces" class, 126, from the list of US classes in the graph in the lower panel. The resulting display is a chart showing the frequency of occurrence of the "stoves and furnaces" classes on documents published in the 1980s (note that the Snapshot feature only analyzes the first 2500 documents in the results set being analyzed). Also note that a return arrow icon is now present on the graph in the lower panel; it can be used to return to the second step of the analysis, the breakdown of all US classes.
The Search Optimiser is a faceted search menu available to users by selecting the "Optimise search" icon in the menu above the hit list. Selecting the icon will open a collapsible menu in a separate window (close the window using the "X" button to return to the hit list). Like most faceted search features, it displays on the fly statistics that users can check or uncheck in order to modify the current search results. The user can select any number of check boxes besides the statistics in a particular category and click the "Optimise Search" button to limit the results by the selected criteria. The faceted categories are: Companies, Technologies (IPC Classification), Publication Dates, and Countries. It should be noted that the Technologies category allows users to view (and select) narrower IPC classifications by selecting the blue arrows beside the broader classification check boxes. The user can also mouse over the listed technology areas to view the IPC code and definition.
The PatBase Express help files do not specify how the relevance ranking is determined. According to a PatBase representative, relevance ranking is based on natural language algorithms and automatic term weighting.
The Visual Explorer tool is a useful way to find additional relavent keywords, applicant names, and IPC codes to add to the query.
It was a good idea for the Minesoft developers to include a link to the Snapshot overview directly from the menu above the hit list in PatBase Express. Since the Snapshot is generated so quickly and is easily accessible through the PatBase Express interface, it is possible that users who just need a quick overview can utilize the Snapshot function rather than the more computationally-intensive analysis options available through the regular PatBase interface. This will save the users time and also reduce the strain on Minesoft's servers.
The Search Optimiser provides a well known shorthand method of refining results that users should find quick to respond and easy to use as an alternative to modifying search strings manually.
- ↑ "What’s New in PatBase Express: March 2011.” PatBase website, https://www.patbase.com/express/pbe201103.pdf. Accessed February 22, 2012.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 ”PatBase Express – Help.” PatBase website, https://www.patbase.com/express/search_help.asp (restricted). Accessed February 22, 2012.
- ↑ "PatBase user news." PatBase website, http://www.patbase.com/wnewinfo.asp?i=173. Accessed February 23, 2012.
- ↑ Email correspondence with PatBase representative. Received March 2, 2012.