Interface/Number Search

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Number Search

The Number search form on the Orbit platform allows users to paste a single document number or a list of thousands of document numbers simultaneously, which can then be searched to create a result set from the FamPat, PlusPat, or Full Text collections. The Number search form is accessible through the Xpert search portal by selecting the "Patents" option under the Search section of the main drop-down menu (see the Command Line Interface section for a screenshot of this menu). The user can then select "Number search" under the left side-menu to open the Number search form.

The Number search form.

The user should first expand the "Collections" section at the bottom of the Number search form to choose which collection to search in (FamPat, PlusPat, or Full Text). For the FamPat or Full Text collections, the user can additionally select which full-text authorities and document types to include in the search (by choosing the the filter icon beside the collection title).

After the user has defined the collection in which to search, they can select from a drop-down menu at the top of the Number search form which type of patent number to search by:

  • Publication number
  • Application number
  • Priority number
  • Application or Priority number
  • Any patent number

The user can then paste a list of the selected type of patent number in the text box to the right of the drop-down menu. No standardization is required if the "Detect and display patent numbers" option is chosen, and commas, slashes, and hyphens are accepted by the search form. If no country code is entered, the system will retrieve every matching patent number regardless of patent office. The help file states that "from one to several hundred numbers can be entered" in the text box, but testing indicates that the actual maximum limit is much higher.[1]

editors note iconEditor's Note:

During testing, a list of over 60,000 document numbers was successfully normalized and searched through the Number search form, although the normalization process did take a few moments to complete. A list of over 130,000 document numbers initially caused the system to freeze when a search was attempted through the Number search form. A second attempt successfully normalized the list of over 130,000 numbers after several minutes of processing, and it took several more minutes for the system to conduct the actual search using the normalized list. Although the Number search form does seem capable of processing large lists of numbers (over 100,000), the process seems to be very time consuming.

According to the user guide for the Xpress portal, the Patent Number Wizard for the Quick Search form can automatically search up to 200,000 numbers at a time.[2] Although the upper limit for the Number search form in the Xpert portal is listed as only "several hundred" numbers in the user guide and online help file, the upper limit of 200,000 patent numbers listed for the Quick search form probably also applies to the Number search form, although the system does take a long time to process large lists of over 100,000 numbers.

According to a Questel representative, over 100,000 publication numbers can be entered at a time, but character length of the publication number does impact the upper limit of how many patent numbers can be entered. Individual computer processing speeds will also impact performance of the Number search form.[3]

Select the small "?" icon to the right of the text box for additional information on the correct formatting for patent numbers. The help information on the Questel website gives the following guidelines on formatting document numbers:[1]

  • Questel Standardized Format for Application and/or Priority Numbers: YYYYCC-NNNNNNN
    Example: GB9410620 becomes 1994GB-0010620
  • Questel Standardized Format for WO/PCT numbers: YYYYWO-CCNNNNN
    Example: PCT/DE00/02241 becomes 2000WO-DE02241
  • Questel Standardized Format for US Provisional Number: YYYYUS-PNNNNNN
    Example: US Provisional 60/534950, filed January 8, 2004 becomes 2004US-P534950

Below the text box, users can choose from a list of additional options to apply to the search:

  • Detect and display patent numbers: This option only appears to be available for publication numbers, and it allows the user to enter a list of non-standardized publication numbers which will be automatically re-formatted by the system into the correct format. The user will then be presented with a list of standardized numbers which they need to validate or uncheck from the list before conducting the search (see the Numbers Assistant for the General search form for a more detailed description of this feature). This feature is available for all three collections.

If "Detect and display patent numbers" is selected, the user will first need to validate a normalized list of patent numbers.

  • INPADOC Family Search: Users may enter a single publication number to search for the entire INPADOC family related to that publication. This feature is only available in the FamPat and PlusPat collections.[4] See the description of INPADOC families in the Family Search Features section of this report for more information about the search and display of INPADOC families on Orbit.
  • Display Graph: This option is only available after selecting the "INPADOC Family Search" option and will display a visual representation of of the extended INPADOC family links to different priorities for a single document number. The help file states that the graph is by default displayed by FamPat family, a different color is assigned to each priority number, and arrows and colors denote priority links.[5] See the description of INPADOC families in the Family Search Features section of this report for more information on this graph feature.
  • Search Similar Patents: The similarity search is only available for FamPat, and it can only be used with a single patent number. The help file states that results have at least one common criterion to the initial patent, are automatically sorted by relevance, and all criteria used for the similarity search is displayed in the KWIC tab of the full record view for a result.[6] The feature uses the following criterion to identify similar patents documents:[6]
    • All ECLA codes assigned to the initial patent.
    • All ICAA codes (from the IPC).
    • All USPC codes.
    • Results of the cited and citing patents of your initial patent.
    • Concepts, when available, from initial patent.

Upload File

The Number search form also includes the option to upload a file containing a list of patent numbers. The User selects the Upload File icon to open the import window, where the user chooses the file to be uploaded (in TXT, CSV, XLS, or XLSX format), selects the number type (publication number, cross publication number, family accession number, or application number), and chooses the destination for the imported numbers (hitlist, workfile, or list).

The import window.

See the Import Functions section of this report for more information on this feature.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Number Search Assistant." Questel website, Accessed October 17, 2012.
  2. Questel. "Patent module user guide – Xpress Search." PDF user guide on Questel website, Accessed October 17, 2012.
  3. E-mail correspondence with Questel representative. Received October 22, 2012.
  4. "Inpadoc Family." Questel website, Accessed October 17, 2012.
  5. "Number Search Assistant - Display graph." Questel website, Accessed October 17, 2012.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Number Search - Search similar patents." Questel website, Accessed October 17, 2012.
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