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When I search for a patent on a topic, I often find a lot of patents that match my criteria.

How can I whittle those results down and know which ones are important or influential for that topic? Is there a score or something I can look up?

My topic is virtual reality, if that's relevant.

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in prior art search; you narrow down your search by using 'key words'. First one or two takes you to your field. Following Key words should represent your adopted means and methodology for solution to the problem you have chosen to solve.

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There are many approaches. If you are not so familiar with patent search the easiest way I find is to take one of the found documents on google, e. g. for a virtual reality device: US20020128541A1

Then you put this publication no. or the application no. in the Espacenet advanced search: http://worldwide.espacenet.com/advancedSearch?locale=en_EP

or use the link directly form google patent search: https://patents.google.com/patent/US20020128541A1/en?q=virtural&q=reality

For the example you get this result:

http://worldwide.espacenet.com/publicationDetails/biblio?CC=US&NR=2002128541A1&KC=A1&FT=D

Finally you will find CPC classes given for that document:

G02B27/017; A61B5/048; A61B5/11; A61B5/486

Check those for relevance, e. g. you want to find prior art about.

This is where I think you can do a big step to narrow down results for a specific problem or function of what you are interested in.

G02B27/017 [Head mounted] systems with

A61B5/11 [Measuring movement of the entire body or parts thereof, e.g. head or hand tremor, mobility of a limb (for measuring pulse A61B5/02 ;A61B5/1038 takes precedence; motion detection to correct for motion artifacts in physiological signals A61B5/721)]

You can enter those CPC classes in the espacenet search:

http://worldwide.espacenet.com/advancedSearch?locale=en_EP

like this:

CPC in Espacenet

The results are only 10: for that search: http://worldwide.espacenet.com/searchResults?submitted=true&locale=en_EP&DB=EPODOC&ST=advanced&TI=&AB=&PN=&AP=&PR=&PD=&PA=&IN=&CPC=A61B5%2F11+AND++G02B27%2F017&IC=&Submit=Search

You could also search e. g. via key word "virtual reality" directly a matching CPC class, see here: http://worldwide.espacenet.com/classification?locale=en_EP#!/CPC=G06F3/00

If you want a reliable full prior-art search you will have to find a professional representative that can help you with this.

Happy searching!

..

Update:

Thanks, Matthew. A good point here.

One way to get an idea of the importance of a specific patent publication/application found in the way mentioned above is to check the number of citing documents. That is which other patents or applications cite the currently viewed one.

You can do that in espacenet as well. From the example above one good result seems to be US2010016730, because it was cited 5 times, see here:

http://worldwide.espacenet.com/publicationDetails/citingDocuments?CC=US&NR=2010016730A1&KC=A1&FT=D&ND=3&date=20100121&DB=EPODOC&locale=en_EP

I don't know if the documents can be sorted by number of citing documents. I'll see what I can find.

  • You mentioned prior art searches a few times in here, but this user is simply looking to find the importance of a patent, not prior art to it. I think your search for classes is relevant, but I'm not sure how much it will yield beyond just the search through Google Patents (or equivalent) that this asker originally proposed as being too raw. Could you add some details about how this helps rank the importance of search results? – Matthew Haugen Feb 28 '16 at 13:49

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