Patent Lifecycle and Patent Documents

Introduction to Patents | Patent Documents in CLEF-IP

This is a very short and simplified introduction to the patent lifecycle which should also clarify the various XML documents corresponding to a patent in the CLEF-IP collection.
The content of this page is based on a presentation made by F. Piroi at CLEF 2010.

What is a patent?

The concept of a patent can be defined as follows: "A patent is a set of exclusive legal rights for the use and exploitation of an invention in exchange for its public disclosure".
A patent is a set of legal documents by which a governing authority, through its patent office, grants a set of exclusive rights for exploitation [of the invention] for a limited number of years, usually 20.

Patent My Innovation: Where to Start

First, write down a document that describes the background of the invention, a description, and a set of claims to specify what exactly the patent should protect.
The level of details of each of the document parts vary depending on the patent office.

The claims are a legal piece of text, therefore it is usual to get the help of a patent attorney to draft them. This is also the reason why the description and the background of the invention are written in a narrative way, while the claims are written in "attornish".

This document, when registered with a patent office, is called an Application Document. The registration date is known as the Application Date.

Examination Phase

In a certain period of time, from the Application Date, the patent application is examined by professionals at the patent office. There are many criteria to be fulfilled by an application before it can be granted a patent: is the invetion novel? is there an inventive step? is it realizable?

The novelty search (a.k.a. the 'Prior Art Search') is the most time consuming and expensive part of the application examination.

The result of a Prior Art Search is a list of relevant documents stored into a Search Report. The relevant documents are called patent citations. (Note the different meaning of the word 'citation' compared to the academic publications.)

Granting Phase

After the examination phase, a series of official communications between the applicant and the patent office takes place. As an output of these communications claims are usually modified in order not to infringe existing patents. Quite often, patent applications are withdrawn.

When the patent office takes the decision to grant a patent, a Granted Patent Document is published.

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Main Patent Documents

Three kinds of patent documents were presented here:

  • Application Document
  • Search Report
  • Granted Patent Document
There are other kinds of patent documents which are not mentioned here, however these are not as relevant - for the CLEF-IP Lab - as the above three.

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Patent Documents in the CLEF-IP Collection

Files in the CLEF-IP collection are named using the following schema:

where the <numerical_id> is a unique identifier given to the EP or WO patent, and the <kind_code> can be A1, A2, A3, ..., B1, B2, ...

The A* kind codes are patent documents published during the patent application phase. A1 documents are patent applications that include the search reports (look for the 'citation' XML Element). An A2 document is a patent application publication for which the search report was not ready at the time of the publication. In this case, the search report is published as an A3 document ('1'='2'+'3').

The B* kind codes are patent documents published during the granting phase. Here the claims must be present in English, German and French when the patent is an EP patent.

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