Patent Family and Legal Status Searching

By Vinod Singh

Patent family is a group of patents which, are all related to each other, in this case by way of the priority or priorities of a particular patent document. Since patents protection is territorial, thus if a company or an individual that wants to protect its invention in a particular or multiple countries must apply for patent protection in those countries -- either by filing national patent applications, or by making the application via one of the multi-national routes (EP or PCT application).

The Paris convention for the protection of Intellectual Property in 1883 directs that:

Subsequent filing must be made within 1 year (6 months for design patents), to seek protection back to the priority application date. Subsequent filing will include the priority application number and date, in addition to the new filing application number and date. The earliest publication (generally a published application) for public inspection will be 18 months from the priority date.

All publications related by a common priority number are defines as equivalents and members of a closely related patent family. In some case more complex relationships between publications can exits. This results in multiple, but related priority application from other countries or from divisions, continuations or continuations in part.

Differences in the patent families

STN: The Patent family information from CAplus, WPINDEX and INPADOC files of STN is very comprehensive. Difference may occur based on country courage, patent kind codes coverage, and timing of file updates. But these also are not very accurate, as we have checked for few patents and compared the information from specific country registry database. Especially EP register is most updates.

INPADOC: INPADOC patent family is defined as comprising all the documents sharing directly or indirectly (e.g. via a third document) at least one priority. This includes all the patent documents resulting from a patent application submitted as a first filing with a patent office and from the same patent application filed within the priority year with a patent office in any other country.

Derwent: Derwent patent family uses other mechanism, they gathers all of the patent documents relating to an invention into a single database record. In general, one record in Derwent WPI (Files 350/351/352) on Dialog represents one invention and shows you all the patent documents that Derwent has collected relating to that invention.

In conclusion, presently there is not a single platform and mechanism for gathering patent families. Best source is the individual country registry database, but most of the countries don’t have online access to these registry system. Thus a patent professional, must have to consult individual patent database to get more accurate patent family and legal status information, before making any critical decision.

Vinod Kumar Singh
Content Writer - IP/Patent Intelligence

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