Friday, May 8, 2009

Keyword Guessing Machine

An invention can’t be described in the 10 words supported by the leading internet search engines. Is a series of words and a few “ands”, and “ors” enough to describe the state of the art in any technology?   How do you find the terms to describe innovations over a 20 or 30 year time horizon?  What words do you need to know to get good results?  For most intellectual property research activities, conventional search becomes a Keyword Guessing Machine. 

The Keyword Guessing Machine takes you down the tedious path from one search to the next, keyword to keyword, combining keywords with Boolean operators, ands, ors, and nots, to try to find the right art.  The quality of the results is contingent on the searcher’s understanding of the keywords and vocabulary associated with the art.  A series of   Boolean operators are needed to build searches that define complex ideas. 

Searches are complicated by the need to look across time and address a constantly evolving vocabulary used to describe inventive art.   Keyword and full text searching do not compensate for the evolution in the lexicon used to describe a field of research and often have limited mechanisms to understand all of the concepts embodied by a single term. Researchers need to execute multiple queries using the vocabulary of the era or weed out search results that contain the same words but don’t embody the right concept. 

Conventional search dilutes the power of the terms and its underlying concepts. Associations become overused losing important related concepts or the meaning of search words over time.  

Search paralysis sets in when combinations of words yield no new or usable results.  Users then start again with a new set of terms.  The more novel or complex the idea, the harder it is to get meaningful results or to follow a thread of subject matter the way an inventor, attorney, or patent professional thinks about and defines their art.

If you look at the May 6th posting for the original Cybercash electronic commerce patent, it's hard to imagine that meaningful prior art could be found using the search terms defined by the examiner or that a researcher would know the right combination of words to find the appropriate art.  Keyword searching when looking for prior art if difficult, time consuming, and very frustrating.

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