UK IPO introduces patent search tool based on EPO’s 'state of the art' system

New tool will enable examiners to search more material in more depth, ultimately enhancing the quality of patents granted

SEARCH will enable examiners to search more material in more depth, enhancing the quality of searches and, ultimately, the quality of patents granted stuartburf

The UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO) has launched a new patent search tool based on the European Patent Office’s (EPO's) world-renowned search tool ANSERA.

The IPO has worked with the EPO to develop its new tool called SEARCH and is based on EPO’s cutting edge tool in use since 2016.

When conducting searches, the volume of prior art that patent examiners need to consider continues to increase. The office hopes that the new tool will help ensure that the most relevant details of any similar invention prior to the filing date of the application are cited (the prior art).

SEARCH uses AI-driven concepts, and will produce results ranked by similarity and – for the first time – by relevance.

It uses ranking algorithms, text similarity matching and constant updating of search statistics. Some advantages to this approach are that the text similarity matching function can identify relevant documents automatically when a match is found

These improvements, the office adds "will vastly improve examiners’ ability to analyse and refine searches as they progress”. 

SEARCH is the replacement for EPOQUENet at the IPO.  The EPO has been working with, not just the UK, but seven other national offices which use EPOQUENet to develop a pilot, with a view to eventually replacing the EPOQUENet system (used by member states since 1991) with a new generation of modern platforms. The UK IPO is the first national IP office, however, to implement the new tool when conducting patent searches.

The office is currently is in a “transition phase” where its examiners have access to both tools, but EPOQUENet will eventually be phased out fully, in favour of SEARCH.

The office expect all examiners to be capable of switching fully to SEARCH by January. From April 2024, the  UK IPO will only be using SEARCH to train its newly recruited examiners.

Matthew Dixon, vice-president of the UK’s Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA), said: “CIPA was “delighted” to see the UK IPO cooperating with the EPO to share searching technology.

“This will bring the tools that have supported the EPO’s renowned search capability to the British patent applications which represent the first step in the international patent protection process for most British applicants”, Dixon added.

The IPO’s deputy chief executive and director of operations Andy Bartlett said: “Our customers won’t be able to see it or interact with it directly, but the benefits they will experience are significant.  By implementing ‘SEARCH’, we are embracing the next generation of search tools – the best currently available in the world.”

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