How to construct a patent search query: Finding the magic of Christmas

Albert Einstein wearing a Santa costume at Christmas | PatSnap It’s that time of year when the music gets infuriatingly repetitive, we drag a tree into our lounges, garish jumpers are de rigueur, photocopiers get cheeky and the kids all make unreasonable demands from a fictional* red-suited character.

Yes, it's Christmas.

So, having PatSnap at my fingertips—I've decided to see what the results of my simplest search ever might reveal.

And explain how you might build a query and narrow down your search to get to the right results.

Here is the initial boolean search query in case you want to follow my patent search: “christmas”.

The first surprise for me was, with only one word to search for, 26,871 results were returned.

*he's real, kids 

Call me Christmas

Now, these 26,871 results includes 613 patents with inventors or companies that have Christmas somewhere in their name.

Christmas Parker (no relation) has 6 patents covering technologies that appear to be used in fruit machines. One of those patents, US8727872 “Gaming System, Gaming Device And Method For Normalizing Different Features Of An On-Demand Bonus Game” is estimated to be worth $1.4million—not a bad Christmas bonus if that one pays out.

Drilling down further

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Christmas patent - word cloud

A word cloud from a simple patent search about Christmas (Source: PatSnap platform)

Using a word cloud I can spot some common terms that don’t really fit the festive bill. One that sticks out to me is “well head”.

Combining that with the most patent intensive companies I can start to spot a trend.

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Christmas - patent intensive companies

The most patent intensive companies for "Chrsitmas" (Source: PatSnap platform)

The most patent intensive company mentioning Christmas is Schlumberger Technology Corporation. Schlumberger provides oilfield services. It turns out that a Christmas tree is, according to Wikipedia:

In petroleum and natural gas extraction, a Christmas tree, or "tree", is an assembly of valves, spools, and fittings used for an oil well, gas well, water injection well, water disposal well, gas injection well, condensate well and other types of wells. It was named for its crude resemblance to a decorated Christmas Tree.

Not quite as festive as I was hoping for.

With this useful insight, I now know that I can pretty safely eliminate, from my search, things relating to oil wells.

International Patent Classification (IPC) codes are a good way of trimming and refining a search. IPC codes are a way of categorising inventions—a bit like the Dewey Decimal System used in libraries.

In this case, the IPC I wish to eliminate is E21B. I’ll also eliminate the linked Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) too.

E: Building
E21: Earth or rock drilling; mining
E21B: Obtaining oil, gas, water, soluble or meltable materials or a slurry of minerals from wells

The new query is: christmas NOT (IPC:E21B OR CPC:E21B)

Removing IPC and CPC E21B means I have trimmed off around 3,000 irrelevant patents, leaving us with 23,459 patents.

Perform a health check on your query

Going back to our word cloud reveals “Therapeutic agent”. Again, not too Christmassy. Turns out some people have an allergy to Christmas trees, called Christmas Tree Syndrome. And there is also a rare blood disorder known as Christmas disease. These weren’t quite what I had in mind when I started this search, so let’s eliminate them too, adding the boolean search parameter NOT (“christmas tree syndrome” OR “christmas disease”). I put the words in "quote marks" because I only want it to eliminate these exact phrases. This new query, hopefully, gets us a little closer to the secret of Santa and his elves—leaving us with 22,694 simple patent families.

Christmas activity

OK, 22,694 patents is still a lot of patents to sort through. I’m only really interested in looking at patents that are either pending or active.

Using simple legal statuses, we can trim the results.

0: inactive
1: active
2: pending

Making our new query:

(christmas NOT (IPC:E21B OR CPC:E21B) NOT (“christmas tree syndrome” OR “christmas disease”)) AND (SIMPLE_LEGAL_STATUS:("1" OR "2"))

Which now means we only have 6,837 patents left to sift through.

It’s worth mentioning at this point, experienced patent attorneys can charge anything from £75-120 per hour to perform patent searches on your behalf according to PeoplePerHour. From feedback, using PatSnap can cut down patent search time by at least 50% and put all of this data at your fingertips—meaning you can make any refinements you need to any queries you have.

“Typical searches would normally take me about 2 days, but with PatSnap, a simple search can take me about 5 hours."

Ilan Riess Ph.D

Anyway, I digress.

With 6,837 patents left to look at, I think I’d like to see which companies are cropping up.

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Christmas - patent intensive companies refined

Refining the search for patent intensive companies (Source: PatSnap platform)

Exxonmobil – pretty sure they are into drilling for oil too. Have we missed something from before with our IPC codes? Another rogue Christmas tree relating to turbines and oil extraction.

Let’s hide them too. We’ll use a search system $WS that looks for words within the same sentence. In this case, we will eliminate patents containing the words “Christmas tree” and “turbine” or “oil” in the same sentence:

(christmas NOT (IPC:E21B OR CPC:E21B) NOT (“christmas tree syndrome” OR “christmas disease”)) AND (SIMPLE_LEGAL_STATUS:("1" OR "2")) NOT ("christmas tree" $WS ("turbine" OR "oil"))

There also seems to be a lot of the world’s largest companies being represented here—including Microsoft, Amazon, IBM, Apple and Google.

Do they own Christmas?

I hope not, I’m still waiting to meet the big man myself.

The magic ingredient

I don’t think we’ve been specific enough about what we are looking for. What we really want is a bit of Christmas magic:

(christmas AND magic NOT (IPC:E21B OR CPC:E21B) NOT (“christmas tree syndrome” OR “christmas disease”)) AND (SIMPLE_LEGAL_STATUS:("1" OR "2")) NOT ("christmas tree" $WS ("turbine" OR "oil"))

And just like that, we are left with only 103 results.

Let’s have a quick look at the top inventors for the magic of Christmas:

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Christmas - top inventors

Inventing the magic of Christmas (Source: PatSnap platform)

Howard Ganz tops this shortlist of inventors—his magic is based around toy adoption and marketing.

In second place is Henry T Fung—he wants to ensure servers aren’t overloaded during the holiday season.

Third on the list is Richard J May—one of his inventions is for a container capable of storing two separate flowable substances.

As wonderful as all this tech might be, have we found the real magic of Christmas through a patent search?

Our stockings might be stuffed with presents, stuffed with patents, but I don’t think IP data is the real key to the festive season.

In fact, Old Saint Nick relies on trade secrets.

I think I know the secret though—why not go and see if you can find it with your friends, family and loved ones this holiday season.

Have a great Christmas, from all of us at PatSnap.


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