Those associated with the fraternity of Intellectual Property Rights have witnessed many changes in the Indian Patent Office (IPO) system during the past decade. Clearly, it has become acclimatized with the changing technologies and has done good work in making documents available for each application. This change has been quite evident in the case of Patents and Trademarks, however, a lot needs to be done for making the system transparent in terms of Designs. For Trademarks, confidentiality of important documents is being well maintained by the IPO.
Patent Searches: Patent searches in India are officially performed using the Indian Patent Advanced Search System (inPASS) which was introduced in the year 2015. It allows full-text search of all Indian Patents and Patent applications using Boolean Operators (AND, OR and/or NOT). The fields in which the search can be performed in the database inPASS include title, abstract, complete specification, application number, applicant name, patent number, inventor name, IPC class, date of priority, priority country, date of filing and/or date of grant. Even though such an extensive searching system has been put in place by the IPO, its reliability is still questionable owing to the following reasons:
- Digitization of abstract and complete specification by the IPO is erroneous at times.
- Digitization of non-English characters is erroneous most of the times.
In view of the above, technical searches like chemical compounds and formulae-based search is not possible using inPASS, which limits the usage of this extensive search system to basic search functions using specific search terms only with/without use of Boolean Operators.
Patent searching Softwares like Questel Orbit, PatSeer, Dennemeyer Octimine, AcclaimIP from Anaqua, DartsIP and many more also provide databases of Indian Patents and Patent Applications for more reliable and advanced searching. However, it would be pertinent to mention here that if such databases are compiled using in PASS information then reliability of that database also becomes questionable. Also, a common problem that is observed in using such software is that it is difficult to trace the applications having first and/or only filing in India. Since such applications do not have any Patent family nor do they take priority from any foreign application, such applications cannot be mapped using WIPO or USPTO or EPO databases which are usually the source of information in such databases. On the contrary, if the patent applications have corresponding filing outside India, then the probability of coverage of such patent is usually high.
Based on our experience of using few search software, we can say that we have not come across any database which has full coverage of the Indian Patents and Patent Applications. The same is also evident from the fact that the relevant searches obtained on searching in inPASS are always higher than in any professional software.
IPC/CPC classification: The International Patent Classification (IPC) provides for a hierarchical system of language independent symbols for the classification of patents and utility models according to the different areas of technology to which they pertain1 . IPC is used in more than 100 countries for classifying patent documents. As such, it is a very powerful tool for searching patent related databases. You can carry out a search (or modify your termbased search) using IPC symbols in almost all patent related databases especially US and JP. The Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) is an extension of the IPC and is jointly managed by the EPO and the US Patent and Trademark Office. It is divided into nine sections, A-H and Y, which in turn are sub-divided into classes, sub-classes, groups, and sub-groups. Using the CPC, you can carry out a high-precision search in the EP and US Patent documentation in their Patent databases and also in the Japanese documentation using specific search terms2 .
In the Indian Patent Office database inPASS, we have observed that an IPO classification of the subject matter of ordinary and international applications (PCT National Phase and Conventional) are done in two different formats, first, being continuous number format (i.e., C07C0231120000, C07C0209100000, C07C0253300000, C07C0221000000, C07H0015040000) and second, being more recognizable format (A61K 31/047, A61K 9/48, A61P 15/00). In view of the said dissimilarity in classification formats, search results obtained are not very reliable and therefore, narrowing search results using IPC/CPC classification is not successful while searching for relevant patents in India3.
Another issue observed while searching relevant patents in Indian database inPASS is that Form 13 for intermediary amendments is not published and therefore, it is difficult to capture such amendments via the search portals. Our readers must be aware that Form 13 is filed at IPO for making amendments in the complete specification and/or claims in any patent application that may or may not be accepted by the Controller at the time of grant. Such amendments may become necessary to be monitored by the competitors to know whether the technical knowledge of interest is now available in the public domain or not. Patent searching in India does not publish or digitize such amendments and therefore, such information may not be readily available in searchable form. Additional search in relevant patent applications is required to be conducted to have this further information.
Keeping in mind the above drawbacks, we can conclude that even though there are many advanced patent databases available in India to search for relevant patent information, but to get precise results, additional efforts need to be made in the IPO searching database inPASS.
1. International Patent Classification (IPC). Available at https://www.wipo.int/classifications/ipc/en/
2. International Patent Classification (IPC). Available at https://www.wipo.int/classifications/ipc/en/faq/
3. Indian Patent Office official Journals. Available at https://ipindia.gov.in/journal-patents.htm
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.