Back before the Internet, you accumulated a lot of steps and frequent flier miles searching for prior art. You had to hoof it to a patent office—in Washington, DC, not down the street! It made for fun trips to our nation’s capital, but added time and expense to the job.
Once there, you’d spend your time finding and manually reviewing the Manuals of Classifications. You’d lug a pushcart to the stacks. And you’d pull all the patent documents in every classification and sub-classification related to your investigation. A great way to burn calories! Too bad there weren’t Fitbits and Apple Watches back then.
Of course, your topic would be the one with hundreds of patents in its sub-classifications. So you’d haul a hulking pile of patents to a workstation and review each and every one of them, only to find most of the patents weren’t relevant to your topic anyway.
After you’d whittled the piles down to just the relevant prior art, you made copies of the patents and loaded everything back into the cart. But before you returned the documents in their exact proper order in the stacks, you had to cross-reference your lists to make sure you hadn’t overlooked anything.
That was a lot of work! And you still had to meet with a patent examiner for your art unit to see if they thought, heaven forbid, you may have missed any important prior art. Then, if you needed to search foreign patents or non-published literature, you had to perform additional searches. Investigate pending patents? Forget it. There was no way to find out what patents were in the works.
Time spent completing two patent searches? Eight hours, on a good day.
Isn’t technology grand? Human + Artificial Intelligence
Before the Internet, it took a lot of time-consuming steps (literally and figuratively) to conduct a prior art search, which meant you could complete only one or two searches in a day.
Happily, patent searching has become increasingly productive and efficient since the 1990s so that now, you can conduct a comprehensive search in minutes or an hour or two, depending on the topic. Fewer trips to DC and visits with a patent examiner? Sure. More time to get more work done? Definitely.
And with semantic search engines, you get more relevant, targeted results than with the original command and Boolean search methods only. Instead of just a list of issued patents, semantic search results provide strategic business insights and competitive intelligence. The papers you had to dig through at the US Patent Office in the 1980s sure didn’t provide that type of insight.
So while today’s fast and efficient patent search processes don’t add steps to your Fitbit, they do help add profits to your bottom line. And now, you can save the trips to DC for sightseeing.