Finding prior art should be simple, but that is not always the case. Sometimes trying to find related patent documents feels like pulling on an endless thread, where one reference leads to another. Other times, patent searches can feel more like a puzzle where the piece you are looking for has somehow gone missing. When patent professionals need to find related patent documents, whether they be patent applications in a single family or patent documents that merely cite one another, the task at hand should not be burdensome. Sophisticated patent search tools simplify patent searches by not only providing access to patent documents from all over the world, but by aggregating and making accessible related patent documents in a user-friendly way.

Patent Families:

In the patent world, a “family” is a collection of patent documents that cover the same invention and have at least one common inventor. Patent families show a patent lineage, so to speak, linking patent iterations all the way back to a patent priority date. The extended patent family also includes international patent filings that help determine which patent authorities granted patent protection for a single invention. Each patent issued by the USPTO displays a list of related U.S. patent applications on its face, which is a good start to researching an entire family, but accessing each listed patent application requires conducting a new search for each document, one by one. Moreover, members of an extended patent family are not listed on U.S. patent applications at all, and identifying international relatives can require quite a bit of investigative work.

Searches performed using the LexisNexis TotalPatent One® patent search platform cut out the tedium of running several searches to view patent documents in a single family. Once a TotalPatent One™ user selects a patent reference from a list of search results, they are presented with an easily digestible and navigable preview of the contents of the selected document. The TotalPatent One document preview even provides a comprehensive summary of both USPTO and international patent documents in the document’s family, and users can access any document in the family by simply clicking the link provided. Family information can even be downloaded in PDF format, or can be exported as tables and reports for your convenience.

Backward and Forward Citations:

Many users have less interest in an invention’s family history, but would like to know more about how a specific technology evolved over time. The TotalPatent One document preview provides links to patent citations going backward and forward in time. Backward citations, which include the prior art that was cited in the viewed patent document, allow users to view the technologies upon which an underlying invention was built. Forward citations, on the other hand, show the later-filed patent documents that make reference to the viewed patent document, allowing users to see how an invention contributed to later technological developments.

The LexisNexis TotalPatent One patent search platform provides users with access to over 100,000,000 patent documents from over 100 patent authorities around the world, but finding related patent documents does not need to be difficult. TotalPatent One simplifies the patent search process by keeping entire families and relations close at hand.

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