Report:QPAT/Viewing Results/Viewing Patent Citations
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|As of January 1, 2013, both QPAT and PatentExaminer have been discontinued, and they have been replaced by the Orbit.com portal.|
Viewing Patent Citations
Some patent and non-patent citation data is available with patent or family records; however, that is only the backward citation data for the document. In order to search citations in QPAT, the citation list must be generated from the Citation Search Form.
(Before a discussion of this interface with regard to patent citations, users should note that none of the search forms in QPAT can be used to run a text search in non-patent citation records. Even a full text search from the Advanced Search form will not cover the non-patent citation text in the database.)
There are two unique features of the system that require a search algorithm to generate patent citation hit lists:
- 1. Forward citations records are not linked to their cited documents in QPAT files; the forward citing documents can only be discovered by performing a citation search.
- QPAT is unusual in that does not automatically display forward citation data for its records; thus, a search algorithm is used to find them when they are needed. The forward citation search in QPAT is a dynamic search; it parses the database in real time to collect all references that cite any member of the original document’s family. In contrast, the backward citation information is always visible from the MAX or COMPLETE record views.
- 2. Citation searching in QPAT is performed on families, not on documents.
- The Citation Search Form accepts only a single document number per search. Rather than searching on this single document, however, the system first runs the number in FamPat, and then performs a citation search on each family member in the original reference’s FamPat family. In other words, the system equates family members and pulls citation information for them as well as for the original document.
A note about viewing citation search results: when a citation search is performed for forward and backward citations only, the results are displayed in the typical hit list format. As of the June 2008 update, the Citation search form includes three options in the analysis tool in the hitlist (See the Statistical Analysis in QPAT section for more information on analysis tools). The options are "Cited Patents," "Citing Patents," and "Cited and Citing Patents." The analysis performed is very similar for each option, but the set of citations examined will change (according to the option's name). For example, selecting Cited Patents will show all the patent documents cited by the patent originally entered into the Citation search. Users can take the analysis further by again selecting Cited Patents. This will list all of the cited patents on each document in the hit list, which already contains the cited patents of the patent originally entered into the Citation search.
However, another viewing option available from the citation search interface is the Family Citation Report Listing (previously called just the Citation Report), which generates the results in an expanded family record format. This report displays the image, abstract and bibliographic data for each family record, and can be browsed by divisions between the “source family”, “cited families”, and “citing families.” The figure below shows a sample family report.
Further the "Display Family Citation Report with Synthesis and Graph" option displays the Family Members, the Citing, and the Cited patent families. This is very similar to the Citation Report without displaying any bibliographic information.
A recent update to the Family Citation Report page is the inclusion of relevancy codes for patent citations. These codes are assigned by EPO examiners and specify to users the importance the examiners have placed on patent citations. Mainly available on newer EP issued documents, these relevancy codes may be attached to documents of any patenting authority.
In December of 2007, a new graphical feature was introduced to the Family Citation Report feature. Called PatCitation, this feature consists of a yellow icon that appears next to document numbers in individual records, in family reports and in citation reports. In the 2007 version, selecting one of these links loaded a static citation summary sheet, showing all citation relationships for the chosen record. However, as of June 2008, the PatCitation tool was updated and became a dynamic graphical interface for exploring citation relationships. In this new dynamic version of the tool, citations are displayed in an interactive Java interface.
The first view shown by the tool shows a citation timeline, with the selected patent appearing in the middle of the screen. The forward and backward citations branch out from this middle patent according to their publication dates. The tool allows for multiple views, also in branch format, that sort the documents by inventorship, ECLA class, or IPC class. Each different view allows users to manipulate the screen, such as zooming and even dragging documents to new positions. By placing the cursor over a document, users may see how that particular document is related to the main document. This relationship is shown by highlighting the interrelated documents. Several options to export the graphs are available, including exporting to a PDF or a GIF. Two citations trees are shown in the figures below, one with the date layout and another with the inventorship layout.
With regards to citation searching features in general, the QPAT citation search function is a valuable tool, not only because it offers citations across an entire family (like PatBase), but because it is able to do so using closely related documents from exclusive families based on the FamPat algorithm.
Take US 4,980,355, “Compositions for protecting plants against disease,” as an example, which has 16 FamPat family members. A search in MicroPatent, a service without family-based citation search features, revealed that individually, US 4,980,335 had cited 4 documents (backward citations), and has subsequently appeared as a cited document by 8 additional patent references (forward citations), for 12 total citations.
On the other hand, a QPAT family citation search performed on US 4,980,335 reveals 9 FamPat families, each containing at least one document cited by a family member of ‘335 (backward citations). In addition, the search revealed 11 FamPat families containing at least one document that cited a family member of ‘355 (forward citations). In total, 20 unique FamPat families, representing over at least 30 individual patent publications, were retrieved by the QPAT citation search.
In sum: QPAT’s citation feature relies on equating FamPat family members, and generating citation reports by showing forward and backward citations for every FamPat family member. This method naturally reveals more citation documents to investigate than services like MicroPatent, which displays only the citations forward and backward from the individual document number. And because QPAT relies on FamPat, which builds small, closely related families, there is a good likelihood that these extra citations are also relevant to the original document.
This way of organizing patent citations is beneficial because it is likely to reduce duplication of citation searching effort. Using patent family relationships to conduct citation searching is based on precedent: it has been noted in the past that Examiners working at a national patent office are likely to cite publications from their own issuing office, e.g. US examiners are likely to cite US art, while Japanese examiners are likely to cite relevant JP art. It could be that a US patent and a Japanese patent from the same family will actually cite different publications of the same piece of prior art. Viewing citations through the lens of citing and cited patent families, rather than citing/cited documents, can reduce this kind of duplication while at the same time showing the user the global picture of citation activity. Another citation search resource, Thomson’s Patent Citation Index (PCI) is also developed along the same theory of patent citations.
Additional advantages to QPAT’s citation coverage is that the system includes citation relevance indicators from international search reports (X,Y, and A) wherever possible. Additionally, when it is available, the system includes language that makes it clear which citations came from the examiner, and which came from the applicant- information that could otherwise only be obtained from the file history, and which might be useful when assessing which references might have been more damaging to the potential novelty of the disclosed invention. (This information is available from the source data providers and is not unique to QPAT.)
However, one disadvantage of the system is that users may not conduct a text search within the non-patent literature citations contained in the database. A full text search from the patent search form will not include the non-patent citation text, although the highlighting algorithm may find it (this is because the search algorithm and highlighting features are separate applications within the system). QPAT is at a disadvantage because some other competitors do offer non-patent citation text searching.
In addition, QPAT is NOT able to link its non-patent citation data out to any source where users might be able to obtain a copy of the document, or to other patents within the system that may have cited that document. A few competitors have introduced or announced their intention to develop such features, such as Delphion, Thomson Innovation, and TotalPatent.
The graphical PatCitation tool has been drastically improved by the 2008 update. The new graphical interface since June 2008 uses Java, so an additional plug-in may be required on older computers. Previously this interface lacked many of the interactive features of the similar tools offered by competitors (for examples, see Delphion and PatBase). For example, there was no way to alter the display or color-code citations from specific assignees or inventors, as Delphion permits, and the user could not re-center the focus of the graph onto one of the citing/cited documents, as allowed by PatBase.
There are some additional benefits to the tool in its current version. This new version allows the user to sort by inventor/assignee, as well as ECLA or IPC classification. Further, users can zoom and scroll the graph to the desired view before exporting it to a variety of formats. Additionally, one drawback to the 2007 tool was the long load time – however, after the 2008 introduction of the Java applet, this load time has been reduced (but not eliminated). Finally, along with the new updates to the graphical tool itself, the downloading and exporting options presented by the summary page, as well as the extra details about when and by whom the references were cited, are likely to be useful features for an in-depth examination of the citation history related to a particular document.
- ↑ Adams, Stephen R. Information Sources in Patents, 2nd Ed. Munich: K.G. Saur, 2006. Page 138.