Semantic and Boolean Search

Two Patent Search Brains Are Better Than One

Patent Search

Two Patent Search Brains Are Better Than One: The benefits of combining semantic and Boolean engines

By: Nasreen Bakht Brady, Client Engagement Director at

If you’re like a lot of patent professionals, you’ve lost more than a few hours of sleep worrying about missing an important piece of prior art. Because one critical miss can cost your company billions of dollars.

And the risk is real when you use just one patent search method, which limits the thoroughness of your prior art search and exposes you to application rejection, or infringement or invalidation in the future. That’s why we recommend pairing your traditional Boolean search with a semantic search.

Using both semantic and Boolean makes it more likely your patent search will include every possible keyword, term, transcreation, translation, synonym, phrase, idiom and similarity, thereby reducing the risk of missing a relevant piece of prior art—and saving time by culling a list of relevant search terms for you.

Start with Semantic

Notice we put semantic before Boolean? It was intentional.

Rather than racking your brain to come up with and search for every keyword or string of keywords you can think of, with semantic, you simply enter a phrase or paragraph of text and you get results that go beyond exact word matches and instead deliver findings based on the meaning of the text.

For example, I did a semantic patent search on hydrofracking and discovered similar patents in the medical field, specifically cancer diagnostics. Who would’ve thought of a connection between hydrofracking and health care? But that’s the beauty of semantic: It digs up unexpected applications and markets that can spark saleable ideas and valuable opportunities for your patents.

Semantic searching by text context reveals relevant concepts, regardless of whether they contain any of the same keywords, even finding significant prior art in foreign languages and with non-descript or misleading language—thereby alerting you to critical information you could have missed with a Boolean search alone and providing essential words to use in your Boolean search.

Boost your Boolean

We recommend performing a Boolean search on top of a semantic search to get the benefit of precision after the semantic engine has brought the most relevant results to the forefront. By doing a semantic search first, you get an expanded and comprehensive list of keywords to use in your Boolean search—more than you could dream up on your own, including new terms in unfamiliar industries—without the irrelevant results that come from keywords that have many meanings, like bank and record.

You can then use this comprehensive list of “vetted” keywords in your Boolean search, making the process more efficient, improving the thoroughness and relevancy of your findings, and further reducing the risk of missing important prior art.

Redundancy is a very, very good and great and wonderful thing

When you combine semantic with Boolean search, you benefit from the intentional redundancy of conducting two types of searches. And when you begin with a semantic search, your Boolean search is all the more effective and comprehensive. Kind of like compounded redundancy. Is that a thing? If not, it is now, meaning you can finally get a good night’s sleep.

Questions? Please contact Nasreen Bakht Brady at