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I am trying to track growth of technologies by growth of patents over time . But when I compare years, the data shows a dramatic decline in patents. For example, a search for Automotive and Technology and Autonomous shows patents of 61,131 in 2017, and down to 16,009 in 2021. In artificial intelligence and medicines for same years, I go 14,004 and 2982. This doesn't seem right, as automotive research and medical AI have increased dramatically in those year.

Has there been a dramatic decline in patents, has Google changed its search, or is there something wrong in my search? Thanks!

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  • How are you searching ?
    – George White
    Aug 1 at 23:58
  • Can you please link to the specific search results so we can evaluate how you are searching?
    – Eric S
    Aug 2 at 15:12

2 Answers 2

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There is something wrong with your search. Your methodology is off somehow.

To illustrate one way to search for some of this information. First I looked for appropriate classifications in the newish CPC patent classification system. I used a rough google patents search and found one patent in the category and saw it was classed in CPC G05D1/0088.

The definition for that class is "characterized by the autonomous decision making process, e.g. artificial intelligence, predefined behaviours" it is hierarchically under G05D1 "Control of position, course or altitude of land, water, air, or space vehicles, e.g. automatic pilot ".

The CPC provides a list of other classes that are relevant for a complete search. The G05D area relates to control of many kinds. The B60W are relates to vehicles. I just used the primary class.

CPC listing for G05D1/0088

Using just G05D1/0088 I did two searches at the USPTO patent search site (not normally a recommended search site) one for 2017 and one for 2021. About four times as many hits for patents issued in the US in 2021. 1297 vs 325 hits.

search G05D1/0088 in 2021  = 1297 hits

search G05D1/0088 in 2017 = 325 hits

I could have used Google Patents Advanced and found about the same answers. About 1,317 results in 2021 and about 302 results in 2017.

google patents advanced with CPC criteria got about 302 hits in 2017

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  • We posted answers right on top of each other. Evidently, Google Patents doesn't handle boolean operators very well.
    – Eric S
    Aug 3 at 0:55
  • It handles OR well within a field and AND well between fields which is not handling them well. I later tried (granted in the US) with the CPC I found and got "About 302 results" in 2017 and "About 1,317 results" in 2021 so it is close to my USPTO search.
    – George White
    Aug 3 at 1:17
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Please note that Google doesn't always use boolean operators in searches. It is supposed to, but I find it often a bit flakey. I think you aren't necessarily getting results for "autonomous automotive technology". Instead I think you are getting all patents and applications which have the term "automotive" plus all those that have the term "technology" plus all those that have the term "autonomous". Doing a similar search in Lens.org for 2017 yields 1,660 patent records of which 490 are granted patents. The same search in 2021 yields 4,938 patent records of which 2,095 are granted patents. This is a significant increase, but I think this may be expected considering how much work is being done in the field. The Lens provides nifty graphs which show this trend.

enter image description here

Google Patents is certainly a quick way to search for patents, but it doesn't always provide the level of control other search engines provide especially if one is used to doing boolean searches. As to why there is a decrease in your searches from 2017 to 2021, it is possible the global pandemic has slowed processing of patents, but this is only speculation on my part.

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  • Are these world wide searches or US only?
    – George White
    Aug 3 at 1:08
  • @GeorgeWhite Worldwide is the default.
    – Eric S
    Aug 3 at 3:46

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