Scope of the study
This chapter presents an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of these different approaches based on the perspectives of two different broad classes of users:
- The user skilled in patent terminology and searching, representing primarily examiners but also patent attorneys able to make ready use of interfaces that demand or offer, for example, Boolean queries, patent classification systems such as IPC and ECLA, and searches of patent-specific data fields such as “inventor” and “claims”.
The assumption was made that the primary requirement of such a user is to find information related to validity of patent claims. In particular, this user should be able to find, for any patent application, the entirety of prior art that should require modification of claims such that no claim reads on any available prior art.
The needs of this user are very important to the credibility and quality of a national patent system. Patents issued may be respected more widely if the metes and bounds of claims are clear and non-overlapping, and the presumption of validity following examination is well supported.
- The innovator or user of technology, who may not be an expert in patent terminology (though possibly expert in the terminology of a particular field of art). In this document we refer to the “public” technology searcher.
This user has a strong economic interest in quality intellectual property informatics. The desire is to avoid wasteful investment, either in attempts to develop and patent technology that is already in the prior art, or in attempts to implement and market technology covered by exclusionary rights to which access may not be available.
A clear understanding of what is claimed must be supported by the availability of definitions and citations from the specifications (and any literature deemed relevant in construing claims, such as contemporaneous dictionaries). For such a user, ability to search titles and abstracts only would be quite insufficient. Full text searching of specifications is a requirement.
Prior art is certainly of interest to this type of user, including both patent and non-patent data, but so is status information (where is this patent in force?) and applicant or assignee information (from which entities would practicing this technology require a license?).
The needs of this user are very germane to IP Australia’s function within the innovation system upheld by Australian and international intellectual property law. If such users are facilitated in their attempts to invent new technology rather than re-inventing the wheel, and to commercialise technology in non-infringing ways, the economy benefits and social goods are multiplied.