India: Patent Searching an Effective Tool for Competitive Intelligence

Last Updated: 3 June 2005
Article by Vinod Singh

A lot of valuable information is now available of the industries in different databases in the web. Among all those patents the most important and easily available. Patent searching can give insights into the state of the art across any technical field. It can provide a platform to monitor the competitors activities by revealing which companies are involved in a field of technology of your interest. Patent searching data can also reveal the technological road map to a particular invention, the science or logic behind the invention, and its intended application.

However the legal nature of patents makes them an uncompromisingly formal style. They are written in a language sometimes so abstruse that it does more to obscure the nature of the invention than to elucidate it. Also the millions of patents exited are distributed across different databases and in each case coded and grouped according to one of several classification systems. The family patent information is also varied from various databases.

The skilled patent search requires in-depth knowledge of an array of software tools, search commands, searching techniques and classification systems. That’s why patent searching is an expert's job. In the recent few years the demand for a professional patent searcher has increased.

Main benefits of free-access Web databases are that they provide a low-cost means of doing initial background searches. The problem is that they suffer serious drawbacks for more crucial searches. For example: free databases generally come from the patent issuing authorities (usually national patent offices) so their content is restricted to those patents granted by that particular authority. There is no universal structure, so the same fields may not necessarily be searchable across different databases. There is no 'added value' - such as readable abstracts in plain English, which has given patent information-provider Thomson Derwent its enviable reputation. There are rarely any patent analysis technologies. And they do not provide the option of sophisticated, command driven, Boolean searches as offered by powerful tools from host companies such as Dialog, Delphion, Questel-Orbit, MicoPat and STN - which also allow parallel searches across several (commercial and free) databases at once.

More importantly, a quick and easy search on a free site is extremely unlikely to uncover 'stealth patents' or "hidden patents"- one of the latest IP protection tricks. The authors of these patents deliberately choose obfuscating keywords and try to have their patents inappropriately classified in order that others' searches do not throw them up. Whereas commercial patent database providers provide access to patent collections throughout the world, along with value-added patent information, various analytical tools and other technologies. A number of these commercial providers have recently released innovative new functionalities alongside the search function

Why Conduct a Patent Search?

  1. Patent searches are conducted for many purposes. Among them are to:
    1. Determine if a particular invention is unique
    2. Identify potential features for new product
    3. Identify other possible uses for a new product
    4. Determine independent inventors or companies currently or historically obtaining patents in a particular area
    5. Find the patent(s) for a particular invention
    6. Determine the state of the art in a particular area
    7. Identify patents in a specific field for generating citation maps (a tool in determining the relative importance/value of a specific invention
    8. Study the rate of innovation in a particular area
    9. Determine the patent portfolio of a specific company
    10. Determine if an invention infringes upon the intellectual property rights of others
    11. Learn about an industry or a specific company
    12. Search for potential solutions to design or safety problems
    13. Identify potential licensees
    14. To identify additional reference materials (journal articles, books, product literature) of use to those working in this area. Patents often list printed reference materials.
    15. Identify inventors working in a certain field.

Patent search Procedure:

    1. The Steps
      1. Search the web to get the up to date information about the area of work and select the specific keywords describing the area of interest and identify the control patents. To start with by searching for any specific patents be aware of in this area, patents of companies work in this field, patents invented by inventors in this field, etc. This step is called "shoot from the tip".
      2. Try a few relevant words in the word search engine and see what turns up. If turned up any patents in the "shoot from the hip" step above, examine them for possible search words. Record the search words on a page in a project notebook and add other words as they come to mind or encounter them in other patents. Usually the word list becomes separated into groups of words covering different aspects of the invention.
      3. Access the Classification Index. In paper it is about the size of a small town phone book. Look up your topic and you will find a class number. The area you are interested in may have several class numbers (for example marine propulsion and propellers (impellers) are in two different classes).
      4. Access the Manual of Classification (in paper it is a large 3 volume set of ring binders). Turn to or click to the class you are interested in and identify the specific subclass's best relating to your topic. You may need some assistance in understanding the hierarchial listing of subclasses. Many are subclasses of subclasses.
      5. Access the Classification Definitions. It used to be on microfiche, but now you can access it online. Look up the specific class and subclass under study. Make sure you are really hunting for items resembling the definition of this class/subclass. Often additional hints are given for other places to look, including classes no longer existing.
      6. Keep cycling through the three tools (Classification Index, Manual of Classification and Classification Definitions) until you identify the appropriate classes and subclasses.
      7. Search the database to identify patents in the classes/subclasses identified.
      8. Examine the ABSTRACT & IMAGE of these patents to identify those resembling your device. Make copies of the drawings, abstract and description of patents closely resembling your invention and of inventions serving the same purpose.
      9. After completing Steps 1 to 7, examine the patents for:

        1. Companies frequently appearing as assignees (patents assigned to them). Search for other patents assigned to these companies in an attempt to identify more patents in the area of interest.
        2. Inventors frequently appearing on the patents (both independents and those working for companies). Search for other patents listing these individuals as inventors in an attempt to identify more patents in the area of interest.
        3. Look for words and combinations of words in the patents of interest. Sort the words into groups. Some will describe one aspect of the invention and some will describe another. Record the search words on the list started earlier. Search for other patents containing these words in an attempt to identify more patents in the area of interest. Be aware of what portion of the patent you are searching (some search abstract only, front page only, full texts).
        4. Examine the patents cited as reference by the patents of interest to see if some of them are of interest as well.
        5. Examine the class and subclass info of the patents of interest in an attempt to identify other classes and subclasses that may contain patents of interest. Search these new classes/subclasses for additional patents of interest.

      10. Keep cycling through steps 1 to 8 over and over until no more patents of interest are identified.


The patent search has become an effective tool for the mining of the patent data, which help in the competitive analysis. A throughout knowledge of the different patent database, their classification system is required for a in depth patent search. Patent search is crucial for the patentability, validity, infringement analysis etc. Thus a skilled patent search professional must know the various search procedures, databases limitations and technical tools and software to reveal a good search result.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.