Obtaining information on patent applications
Today, intellectual property plays a major role in economic and industrial development worldwide, meaning that the retrieval of actual, precise and comprehensive information about patent applications is of high importance. Most patent offices provide patent information to the general public, but the scope of patent information provided and how it is obtained can vary. Some patent offices (eg, the European Patent Office) see their information retrieval systems as cornerstones to support innovations, and therefore present full patent information in a search-optimised format with highly functional, accessible search tools. Other patent offices prefer to provide copies of official patent publications while keeping the published information reasonably minimal.
The Russian Patent and Trademark Office (Rospatent) follows a mixed approach by both publishing original patent documents and maintaining electronic databases with a search option. However, in spite of making fairly good progress in providing official patent publications, Rospatent has not yet optimised the information provided for search purposes.
At present, Rospatent offers the following options for retrieving patent and patent application information:
- The Official Bulletin – the Official Bulletin is issued three times a month (36 issues per year) and since 2014 it has been available online in Russian. The Official Bulletin contains bibliographic data and the claims of patent applications for inventions upon the expiry of an 18 month period (excluding applications that were withdrawn within 15 months of filing). As well as online access, it is possible to subscribe to the Official Bulletin, meaning that each issue is sent to subscibers on CD.
- The Rospatent online electronic database contains information about applications such as bibliographic data and claims. There are two ways to access the database: the open register (free of charge) and the information retrieval system.
The open register is a structured list of patent documents sorted by the patent or application number and is available to the public. As well as browsing the list of patent applications, it is also possible to search for a patent application by entering its number in the relevant search field.
Information retrieval system
The information retrieval system is a more advanced, flexible search tool, with adjustable search fields and a supported logical search. Again, the information retrieval system provides two modes of access: guest access (no registration and free of charge) and registered access (which involves entering into an agreement with Rospatent and paying a fee for each search query).
After accessing the information retrieval system, the user can choose which database to search – the options are set out below.
Full-text databases of Russian patented inventions (registered paid access)
Retrospective database of Russian patent documents in facsimile (due to the automatic processing of patent documents into digital format, search accuracy is not guaranteed and mistakes are possible in the submitted bibliographic information) (registered paid access)
Abstracts database of Russian applications and patented inventions (free guest access)
Abstracts database of Russian patented inventions (in English, free guest access)
Full-text database of promising inventions (free guest access)
Abstracts database of Russian utility models (registered paid access)
International Patent Classification
Database of industrial designs (registered paid access)
The search supports all main operators such as 'and', 'or' and 'not', as well as several search modes (eg, logical, strict, dictionary) and wildcards. As well as specific search fields, there is a general keyword search. The search menu is customisable and additional fields can be added to retrieve the best results.
The searches are in Cyrillic. Among other complications, this leads to certain difficulties related to translation and transliteration. For example, there is no single approach for transliterating the names of foreign applicants, assignees or authors, and in most cases they can be transliterated into Cyrillic in multiple ways. The simple four-letter company name 'Tyco' can be transliterated into Cyrillic as 'Tiko', 'Taiko' or 'Tuko' – and the issue is exacerbated for more complicated names. All of these factors may turn a simple name search into a tricky task if the searched name is foreign and may prevent relevant patents from being retrieved. Unfortunately, Rospatent does not assign special abbreviation names or codes as used in, for example, the Derwent system to cover all variations of a given applicant’s name and minimise the impact of translation errors or misspellings in search results.
The information retrieval system does not have an embedded automatic translation tool. Therefore, RUPATABEN – the invention abstracts database – is designed to help non-Russian-speaking users to retrieve information about Russian patents. It contains basic bibliographic information, the title and abstract of an invention in English and related drawings.
Although the idea behind the information provision system is good, its practical implementation leaves much to be desired as the search results can be unsatisfactory or even misleading. Further, Russian patent abstracts alone cannot be considered a reliable source of patent information due to their brevity (less than 1,000 characters long); they are a shortened version of the patent description, which usually includes no references to the specific positions in drawings, thus making it harder to use such abstracts for searches. Compared to the Derwent World Patents Index, which provides extended, structured search-friendly abstracts up to 500 words long, the RUPATABEN database has much room for improvement. Another issue with English abstracts is the translation quality: even if the translation of an abstract or patent name is carried out by a human translator, there may be some variation – for example, due to the fact that the scope of a specific term in Russian and in English may not be completely the same or may have more than one translation (eg, in certain circumstances, the term 'shovel' might be translated into Russian as 'scoop'). Moreover, if the patent is based on a foreign priority document, the abstract might be translated twice – first from English into Russian, and then from Russian into English again – adding further variations. Ultimately, this leads to the situation where relevant patents are not retrieved through a keyword search. Further, the nature of these variations lies in the basic differences between Russian and English, and therefore an automated translation would not resolve them.
Therefore, although the Rospatent databases offer the option to search Russian patent abstracts in English, such a search requires a native Russian-speaking information retrieval specialist who can foresee all such variations and thus can search effectively.
File history and application status
Although patent applications in the Rospatent online database show a 'status' field, this merely indicates that the application is in the prosecution stage and provides no information about the actual status. Therefore, a user must browse the general information on what documents were filed by the applicant and the patent office (eg, requests for examination or official actions) along with the relevant filing dates, and try to work out the application status. Aside from the lack of explicit information on the main page of the patent application, one of the reasons why application status cannot be established precisely is that the names of correspondence documents are generic and describe the submitted materials vaguely, while the original documents are not available online (unlike, for example, the US Patent and Trademark Office). Moreover, the indicated dates show only the dates of internal movement of the documents at Rospatent, and do not necessarily coincide with the actual dates of Rospatent’s actions. For example, in regard to information about the withdrawal of the application: while the relevant entry is in the correspondence list, the date refers to the date when the document was sent to the applicant and not the date of the relevant decision, thus giving only a limited picture of the application. In addition, patent application information contains no published data on an international application entering the national phase in Russia.
Therefore, the list of correspondence in the online database should be considered to be more a workflow history rather than a patent application history.
Nevertheless, it is possible to obtain copies of the patent application file history documents and search report in respect of patent applications that were filed and published later than June 25 2009 on submitting the relevant request in Russian to Rospatent after the relevant patents have been issued and published in the bulletin. The file history and search report for applications filed before that date but not published are available only within the scope of published information (except for the original applicant, who may request a copy of the file history or search report anytime). However, for applications published after October 1 2014 the search report is also to be published (on completion of the substantial examination of such application). However, at present the publication term of such information has not been set and no search reports have been published.
While Rospatent provides a fair amount of official patent information for public access, the available search instruments have yet to be brought up to the same level as, for example, those of the European Patent Office. Therefore, in their present state the Russian patent databases are not optimised for use by non-Russian speakers to retrieve patent application information in the course of a patent search.
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