Apple receives a patent for screen control by eyeball tracking. What additional prior art can be found by an iterative Cluster Search?

Apple have recently recieved a patent US9189064 for control of a tablet by eyeball tracking. According to Business Insider, ‘this refers to your iPhone tracking where on the screen you’re looking — and delaying notifications until your gaze is fixed in the appropriate place.

This is an interesting patent, and also a chance to test the Cluster Searching patent search tool developed by Ambercite. Since the patent has been granted, we now have an independently created search report by the USPTO, found here

Cluster Searching works from a series of starting patents. In a lot of cases, searchers such as patent examiners might be starting from a search report for the PCT version of this patent – which in this case is WO2014039449.  This patent is published by WIPO with 7 patent citations, 4 of them supplied by Apple and more concerned with touch screens than eye control.

If we wanted to search for further prior art based on the WO patent alone, we might run a search based on the patent itself, and perhaps the examiner citations. We might put the rest of the cited art in the ‘hide from result box. And we would ask for patents filed before the September 2013 filing date of the WO patent, and ask for perhaps the 100 most similar patents.

The resulting query would look like this



The results would look like this, with . Of interest, the vast majority of the patents found are not directly linked to eye control of touch screens. but these ‘false positives’ are a fact of life in any patent search. Of these first five patents shown, the first two are related to eyeball control – and the other three are not. Normally our searches return a lower ‘false positive’ rate than this, but every search is different.



But what else is there? Patent titles in this case can be quite helpful, and so we scrolled through the results.Besides the first two mentioned patents, the patent ranked in 44th place was also interesting, being US7561143 Using gaze actions to interact with a display, filed by University of Arts (Philadelphia, US). This discloses:

The eye movement analyzer analyzes the eye movements for a sequence of gaze movements that indicate a gaze action which specifies an operation on the display.



Using iterative searching to expand your results set

We can further extend the search by copying the first two patent numbers, and the Gaze patent, in the search box. We can copy every other result we initially found into the “Enter patent numbers to hide box“, and so they will not be displayed again.

The search query now looks like this (note that only the top few ‘hide’ patents are shown):




The new results are shown below. Again not all patents are relevant, but many are – in fact, of these top 100 patents, 27 refer to eyeball tracking. 

We could stop here – or run one more iterative search by copying these 27 addtional into the Search box, and the reminder of these 100 patents into the hide box. This time the results look like this:


The top 5 patents all refer to gaze tracking, and so the majority of the other patents – for example US20110175932, Eye Tracker Based Contextual Action.


So as you can, we are working from just 4 patents disclosed we are rapidly building up a databset of relevant patents.  In fact, if we look at the results for all iterations, we have a database of 60 relevant patents in total


But which of these patents did the search reporf for US9189064 find?

Out of the 60 patents found by this three stages iterative approach, just 4 were also found in the USPTO search. And we have seen these divegence from conventional search before.  So by using a completely approach to conventional search, we end up with a completely different set of results – and if you are trying to produce the best possible search report, isn’t this what you want to see?


Want to try Cluster Searching for yourself?

Cluster Searching is a very fast and easy to use web application. Free demonstrations and confidential trials are available to qualified applicants – please contact us to arrange a short demonstration and trial. You may be surprised (and impressed) by just how much time and money you may save.

After the trial has finished, Cluster Searching is available to companies, organisations and individuals at a very competitive annual subscription – we are happy to discuss this in person.


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