An insight into our working day

This is an excerpt from an interview Máté gave to JobTales, a website introducing various professions through real-life stories. Read the whole interview here:

What does a patent information specialist do?

We search, interpret, and evaluate patent documentation. Knowing how to use patent information is an indispensable part of any successful innovation as 80% of the information in patents is never published anywhere else.

A patent information specialist might be given an inventive idea and tasked with finding the closest prior art available in the public domain; or granted patents which might be infringed upon by a new product in development.

Patent information specialists might also be asked to gather material to be used in litigation or carry out statistical analysis on larger patent datasets to support managerial decisions.


How does your typical workday look like?

We start the day with an online meeting at 9 AM where we all share our daily work plan, so everyone knows which file is picked up by which member of the team.

Each case begins with reading all files sent to us by our client. While reading, I want to extract the gist and structure of the idea:

– What is the technical field we’re working with?

– What problem is the idea is supposed to solve?

– What is the proposed solution and how is it different?

After having learned enough to be able to answer these questions, I can start gathering the relevant patent classifications and keywords that I will use as search terms. At this point I usually have a short discussion with a colleague to double-check if my interpretation is correct.

Next, I make some quick, targeted searches to see if I find relevant results right away. Often this approach gets me closely matching results relatively quickly. Should this approach fail, I start methodically closing in on the inventive concept. I delimit the technical area first and within that set, I try to see whether I can find something relevant by using the keywords and classes related to the technical solution.

The work revolves around thinking-searching-reading, and then thinking-searching-reading some more. After having carried out such takes, I will have scanned through a couple of hundreds of documents. Once I feel confident that I have gathered an understanding of the prior art situation of the specific problem and/or solution, I write a report summarising my findings and send it back to the client.


What makes a good patent information specialist?

You need to have a broad range of technical understanding. We receive a large variety of cases such as battery cell designs, gearboxes, laser optics or windmills just to name a few. Practically, nobody will be an authority on all of these subjects, but we do have to understand them well enough to be able to determine in what way an idea is different from known solutions or methods.

Another important virtue is to be methodical and patient. Our database indexes about 75 million published applications and granted patent documents; and in cases assessing the novelty of an idea we have to look even further: we have to take into account any material published anywhere, ever.

Sometimes our work feels like looking for a needle in a forest rather than in a haystack. But being methodical, patient and to a certain extent, uncompromising helps one navigate as close to that needle as possible.


How do you see the future of your work?

Our work is already greatly aided by digital search tools, including sophisticated word and term highlighting, customizable display options, preliminary relevance rankings. The next era of the patent information profession seems to rely on semantic search tools.

Some argue that such semantic search engines will replace patent information professionals, but I believe that this reasoning ignores the role of interpretation. A semantic search engine may indeed find the output that is semantically closest to the input, but semantic proximity does not necessarily mean that the input and output bear the same meaning.

I believe that patent information specialists will be around for the foreseeable future. We will rely more and more on semantic search, shifting our focus from constructing the perfect search query to choosing the perfect semantic tool for a specific job and interpreting its results.