Expert Patent Searchers are Detail-Oriented
Performing searches involves working with a wealth of patent data, as well as non-patent literature, depending on the objectives of the search. Each and every piece of data can potentially be critical to the quality of the search and the delivery of results that precisely meet the customer’s objectives.
Being able to pull sense out of all of this detail requires the discipline of a Zen master plus the ability to “become one” with the data. In this article, we cover how being detail-oriented ensures that customers get the best search results every time.
Why is Being Detail-Oriented So Important?
Customers use the results provided by their patent searching vendor to support high-stakes legal and business decisions every day. In light of these responsibilities, the delivery of search results that precisely support the customer’s goals is critical. Excellent searchers must incorporate intense attention to detail throughout every search so they don’t make mistakes that lead to imprecise or inaccurate reporting to the customer.
If a customer discovers an error in any aspect of the search strategy or their search results, they will question the value and accuracy of the entire search – and rightly so. This is the case even if the error appears to be minor and has no meaningful impact on the results. Search customers need to be 100% confident that the searchers supporting their needs understand the importance of attention to detail and perform every step of every search based on that mindset and commitment.
Since searches are performed based on a defined and finite time budget, there is zero slack built in to allow for “do-overs” if a mistake is uncovered. That is why excellent searchers put a premium on details to ensure that they get it right the first time, every time.
Why is Attention to Detail a Must Throughout the Search Process?
The mindfulness and understanding exhibited by the Zen master is evidenced in every aspect of their daily life; a similarly all-encompassing devotion to detail impacts every aspect of a well-conducted search. Failure to pay attention at any point during the planning or implementation of a search can introduce errors that make the final search report useless for the customer.
Here are some of the areas of searching where a focus on the details comes into play:
- Critical date – For prior art searches, making a mistake with regard to the critical date that is driving the search is a fatal error. This could involve performing searches or evaluating references in a results list based on an incorrect date. Either will produce useless results.
- Spelling errors – Introducing spelling errors when performing a search means that a searcher is not executing the intended query. If not discovered, this could result in both false positives – references that appear in results but aren’t actually relevant – and false negatives – overlooking essential references.
- Scoping error – If the searcher does not have a full and accurate understanding of the scope of the search, they may perform a search that does not match the scope of the quote that was approved by the customer. An excellent searcher is always careful to ensure that they understand and accurately implement every detail in the scope.
- Application of the America Invents Act (AIA) – For invalidity searches, critical dates have particular importance because they drive whether the target patent is subject to the AIA or to pre-AIA law. The AIA impacts what qualifies as prior art, so making this determination carefully, in consultation with the customer, is vital.
- Searching based on wrong claims or wrong patent – This is pretty basic, but it can happen to a searcher who is not detail-oriented. Obviously, searching based on the wrong claims or patent will not produce results that are useful to the customer.
- Failure to use best citation – A searcher may find a great reference and cite a particular part of the reference in the report results. If the searcher is not detail-oriented, they may miss other passages within that same reference that are a better fit to be cited for the feature in question.
There are indeed many opportunities for a searcher who is not concerned with detail to introduce mistakes that can result in wasting time and wasting the customer’s money. An excellent searcher knows the importance of attention to detail and keeps this in mind throughout every search.
Can Being Detail-Oriented Be Taught?
Being detail-oriented is a mindset, but it can be taught (intense perfectionists welcome the challenge!). At CPA Global, every new analyst goes through our tough, multi-week training program. One of the topics that we cover is which details are critical for every type of search.
Once training is complete, our searchers are mentored during the completion of multiple test cases. These test cases are carefully reviewed by a senior member of the team, to embed the discipline with the searcher, prior to working on any searches for customers.
We also support our searchers’ efforts to maintain a conscientious focus on details through our workflows and processes. At each office, our searchers are placed in an area dedicated to the search team. Each searcher works on just one project at any given time, allowing them to focus solely on the details of that project, operating with minimal disruptions and distractions.
Plus, no matter how much experience a searcher has or how long they have performed searches for CPA Global, every completed search undergoes a detailed quality review by a senior member of our search team who shares a similar technical background. Quality reviewers are required to follow a 30-point quality checklist to evaluate:
- Numerous aspects of the search history to ensure it complies with our prescribed methodology and is compatible with the scope of the search
- The accuracy and relative strength of the documents cited
- Several aspects of report formalities, such as delivery format, citations to relevant sections and figures, and consistency of subject features with the quote
The results of the quality review are stored in our project docketing system and in patent analyst performance records. We check and double-check, and do not leave to chance the delivery of precise, error-free results.
Excellent searchers know the importance of getting every aspect of a search right, and they bring a diligent, focused attention to detail to every project, much like the Zen master. And at CPA Global, we support these detail-oriented searchers with a strong training program and a strong quality control program to ensure that our customers can rely on mistake-free reports of consistently high quality.