A simple case study of how Cluster Searching can find patents missed by conventional searching

A client recently asked ‘can you provide some examples where Cluster searching efficiently identified relevant citations, which were not identified using existing tools?’.

This is a great question. I was running a demonstration case the other day, and this was a perfect examples.

Being a demonstration case, we wanted to a simple invention, and this turned out be the concept of a surfboard carrier for a bicycle (Ambercite founder Doris Spielthenner is a keen surfer and cyclist).



The search process

1) Using a widely used conventional search engine, we ran the following search query.

Search for, within the title or abstract=((bicycle* or bike or cycle) AND (surfboard*)) – and with a CPC cclass code of B62J*, where this class code means accessories peculiar to cycles including article carriers. 

This produced 28 patent families, of which we judged 21 to be highly relevant, i.e specifically disclosed a surfboard carrier for a bicycle.  While this is an excellent relevancy rate, most searchers would agree that this much better than normal.

2) We used these 21 patents families as the basis for a Cluster Search, and produced a list of the 50 most similar patents to these 21.

3) We then cross-checked these 50 patents against the 21 families  to check for duplicates, and the remaining patents assessed how many of these specifically disclosed surfboard carriers for bicycles.  There were 7 such patents.

So this was 7 patents which where not picked up by a conventional search. This is great of course, and justifies the value of cluster searching, but the real question is why?

This is best explained by the table below.

What additional patents did we find? 


Why was this missed by the original query?

Rank according to Cluster Searching

US4393986 – Surfboard carrying rack


Used ‘two wheel vehicle” rather than bicycle in abstract, and picture is of motoycycle. However body of patent clearly notes that the invention is intended for bicycles rather than cycles


US4928863 – Bicycle rack for carrying sport boards



Used the term ‘sport boards’ rather than surfboard in the abstract


US3338484 Load support means



No published abstract (1965 patent)


US3827613 – Golf bag bicycle rack


Referred to golf bag rather than surfboard. But the invention could easily be used to carry a surfboard


US4387836 – Golf bag carrier


As above


US3329323 –  Overhead carrier for use with twowheeled vehicle


No published abstract (1965 patent)


FR709781 – Véhicule pouvant servir au transport de bagages et autres applications


In French language, with no English language abstract



I think this table is interesting at it illuminates what Cluster Searching is trying to achieve – namely to challenge your assumptions on what the answers might be. For example in my preliminary search I had made some assumptions on that the invention might be, or what keywords would be relevant. But these results have come back with otjher ideas – and these other ideas might be exactly what I am looking for.

None of this is intended to provide reasons why you should not continue to use your preferred patent searching process – only that instead that Cluster Searching can provide a quick and useful second opinion that can extend your processes and results.




Want to try cluster Searching for yourself? 

Please contact us and we will be happy to provide a demonstration and free trial


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