Cluster vs Semantic searching – ‘Head to head’

Here at Ambercite we have developed a means of searching for similar based on applying advanced algorithms to patent citation data, which we call Cluster Searching.

But what does everybody else do?

The two most other forms of patent searching are keyword searching and semantic search. An earlier and much read post discusses the underlying reasons for the natural limitations of keyword and semantic approaches. But enough of the theory – how do they compare in practice? Is it time for a ‘match up’? In Australia we might say a ‘Head to Head’ competition. 

In such a match, the choice of patents analysed can make a big difference. It is possible to cherry pick patents to prove or disprove any hypothesis, or make any approach look great. In an ideal world we might randomly pick say 100 patents, but you probably don’t have time to read the results from such a study, and I certainly don’t the time to report them.

An alternative approach I have used before is to pick ‘round number’ patents, where the subject matter is determined by the allocation of patent numbers by the USPTO. In this case, the last big round number granted by the USPTO was US9,000,000 for a Windscreen Washer Conditioner – which claims an aspect of using rainwater to refill your car windscreen washer. This is in the scheme of things a patent that should be easy to search using any technique, with relative simple and commonly used languate

So having set up a contest ‘who can find the most similar patents’, we need some contestants. It can be bad form in marketing to directly disparage your competitors (not that they really are competitors – we tend to think of them instead as complementary techniques as we will discuss below), so I will avoid naming them. Instead I will list them as follows

  1. Ambercite Cluster Searching
  2. A semantic patent search – that can search for similar patents based on patent numbers
  3. A very commonly free patent engine – that has a ‘similar documents’ function –
  4. A commonly used subscription search engine – that has a built in semantic search function

And the test? For each of these search engines, I will run a search using US9,000,000 or its abstract, and list in order the most similar patents listed.

The results will be provided below. But before we look at the results, we should take a closer look at U9,000,000

The abstract for this patent is:

A system and method of collecting and conditioning rainwater and other moisture, such as dew, from a windshield of a vehicle and utilizing the collected fluid to replenish the fluids in the windshield washer reservoir. A collection funnel is positioned on a vehicle in order to collect rainwater and other moisture. Rainwater and other fluids from the collection funnel are directed to a conditioning cartridge where the water is de-ionized and windshield washer fluid is added. The cartridges are designed to be single replaceable units. The mixed fluid from the mixing cartridge is directed to the pre-existing windshield washer reservoir.

So we could say that the key elements could include

  • Collection of rain water for a car windscreen washer
  • Conditioning of the fluid, and addition of washer fluid
  • A conditioning cartridge to do the above

So we want any patents found to disclose as many of these elements. Since we want to rank the different systems, we might assign a point for each element found.

 

Result set 1 – Ambercite Cluster Searching

The query looked as simple as this:

us9000000-query.jpg

 

The five highest ranked patents (in terms of similarity) were (after removal of US5669988, which was in the same family as US60224803)

Patent

Patent title

Collection of rainwater for car windscreen washing?

Chemical treatment of the water?

Cartridge system for chemicals?

Points

US3738575

Automatic windshield washer reservoir filling and mixing means

yes

yes

no

2

US6024803

Replenishment of vehicle windshield washer solvent using rainwater

yes

no

no

1

US6266842

Windshield cleaning device with liquid collection

yes

yes

no

2

US2770017

Windshield washer system

yes

no

no

1

US20120055857

Water Purifier

no

no

no

0

Total points

6

So as you can see, in this case, just for the top five patents, no novelty knockout was found, and one patent was listed that disclosed none of these elements. So as we can see patent searching is an imperfect art – but we all know that. And of course there was a reason why this patent was granted.

 

Result set 2 – First semantic search

This particular semantic search engine provided search results based on US900000. The top five ranked results are listed below

Patent

Patent title

Collection of rainwater for car windscreen washing?

Chemical treatment of the water?

Cartridge system for chemicals?

Points

US5261254

Self replenishing windshield washer system

no

yes

no

1

WO1996040544

Replenishment of vehicle windshield washer solvent using rainwater

yes

no

no

1

US2015027158

System for transporting condensed water from a vehicle’s air conditioner to its windshield washer reservoir

no

no

no

0

US6266842

Windshield cleaning device with liquid collection

yes

yes

no

2

WO2014198962

Reservoir for windshield washer fluid, support intended for a windshield washer fluid container and comprising said reservoir, and device comprising said support

no

no

no

0

Total points

4

As you can see, only one of the patents (US6266842) made it to two points – and this patent was also listed by Cluster Searching. This technique earned a total of four points. 

 

Result set 3 – Similar patents list in a well known free search engine

This particular search engine does not produce a ranked list of results – instead it produced a list of about 25 patents, sorted in date order

In the list below, we have ranked the patents by reverse filing date – with the latest filing date top of the list

 

Patent

Patent title

Collection of rainwater for car windscreen washing?

Chemical treatment of the water?

Cartridge system for chemicals?

Points

US6042023

Automatic deicing unit

no

no

no

0

US5103878

Apparatus and method for flushing and draining the coolant system of a vehicle

no

no

no

0

US4090668

Windshield washer and deicer

no

no

no

0

US5946767

Pipe cleaning vehicle

no

no

no

0

US5946763

Module for a motor vehicle

yes

yes

no

2

Total points

2

So not a great match here – only two point in total. But will the Cluster Searching ‘champ’ make it through to the final round?

 

Result set 4 – Similar patents list in a semantic search function in a well known subscription search engine

This particular search function requires a block of text rather than a patent number, so I based this system on the abstract from US900000,  as given above. At the top of the list of the results returned were US9,000,000 and a family member – but we have ignored these two patents in the list below.

Patent

Patent title

Collection of rainwater for car windscreen washing?

Chemical treatment of the water?

Cartridge system for chemicals?

Points

US7673814

Vehicle windshield cleaning system

no

no

no

0

US20160193986A

Vehicle surface wash apparatus with heated wash fluid

no

no

no

0

US20140352095

Plastic heat-conducting component for a system for supplying and/or distributing a window-washing liquid for a motor vehicle

no

no

no

0

US20100140378

Automotive Fluid Distribution System

no

no

no

0

EP2196367

Washing liquid tank, in particular for windows or projectors of a vehicle

no

no

no

0

Total points

0

This result honestly surprised me. It makes sense for the US9,000,000 and its family member to come at the top of the list – but the rest of the patents were a long way off.

 

What about a conventional patent search – what would this find?

We can make a reasonable guess of the answer to this one – by looking at the list of prior art citations listed by the examiner.

Patent

Patent title

Collection of rainwater for car windscreen washing?

Chemical treatment of the water?

Cartridge system for chemicals?

Points

US20040112411

Method and apparatus for cleaning a photoactive and/or hydrophilic surface

no

yes

no

1

US6089620

Rapid connection and disconnection device for electropumps and conduits for motor vehicle wind-shield washing systems

no

no

no

0

DE4436023

Method and device for the automatic filling up of the supply container of the washer system of motor vehicles with rainwater

yes

no

no

1

US5347661

Water conditioner dispensing apparatus

no

no

no

0

DE4101820

Windshield washer with rainwater reservoir – uses rainwater collector and reservoir as backup to main water reservoir

yes

no

no

0

US2703127

Fluid reservoir for vehicle windshield clearing systems

no

no

no

0

Total points

3

This is not a completely fair comparison as the examiner might found other relevant patents and not listed them, or tried to form an obviousness argument by combining separate documents. Regardless, it does make an interesting comparison to the other results.

 

The verdict

I will have to concede that this is not a knockout blow for Cluster Searching (for knockout blows see here and here) – but regardless it was a clear points decision, as shown in the table below

Technique

Total points

Cluster Searching

6

Semantic search engine

4

Similar to function in well known search engine

2

Similar patents list in well known subscription engine

0

Examiner listed patents (6 patents listed)

3

This is not a big surprise for us, as by applying sophisticated algorithms to both forward and backward citation links provided by experts such as examiner and applicants, we would expect Cluster Searching to be the better system.

The other thing to note is the range of results. Only one patent was duplicated in more than one list. We have send this before in an earlier comparison of cluster searching to other patent search techniques.

 


But this is an exclusive decision?

Not at all. Cluster Searching is certainly fast and friendly, and a good starting point for a patent search.  But if my client was facing a million dollar patent lawsuit, or making a million dollar investment, I would use every technique available to me – particularly because each method appears to give a different set of results.

And this is why we are happy to promote Cluster Searching as a second opinion engine. We want our clients to find the best possible patents, and are happy to provide part of the answer to this – and work in with the other parts. 

 

Want to try Cluster Searching for yourself?

Please contact us about a personal demonstration and free trial. We also offer free trial searches (we do the work for you, to prove that it works) for patent litigators. 
 

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