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Boolean 101


When coming up with an effective patent search, it is important to understand the basics of search Boolean, which ensures that you correctly define the relationship between any keywords, terms or fields you want to use in the search. Boolean also conveys how our search engine should treat them.

We provide a window for the search Boolean whenever you build a search on our Advanced Search page.



1. OR

We would usually insert OR between terms used to provide a variant or set of options in your search. Look at this chart if you want to know how it works in terms of logic. However, you can consider it as a simple OR, as we use in our daily speech.

2. AND

AND serves as a bridge between more than one term that you want to categorically appear with each other. This is like saying "with". So if you want to look at patents with the keywords "auxetic" and "material", you'd add the AND in between them (auxetic AND material) to say "search for the words auxetic WITH the word material in any patent document." Alternatively, if the word auxetic appears by itself without the word material in any patent documents, they won't be included in the results.  

3. NOT

This operator works like the word NOT does in day to day search. If you want to look for some terms, but NOT others, you can list the others after the operator NOT.


Order Of Operation

What do the below parentheses mean?


Parentheses or brackets, work exactly as they do in math equations. They simply help to group any list of terms together. This group is called an Order. A search query is made up of different orders grouped together, with any of our three operators (discussed above) between them.

This allows our search engine to ascertain either what it needs to consider first; or how you would want it to look for a specific group of terms, and what their relationship is with each other. 

Let's look a few examples to illustrate this:

Firstly, if you want to search for a group of 4 individual keywords that you would absolutely require to appear with each other in the same body of text and use that group as an alternative for the 5th keyword, you would use a search query of the following kind:

(key word 1 AND key word 2 AND key word 3 AND key word 4) OR key word 5

Secondly, if you want to look for keywords 1 and 2 in conjunction with each other in one case, or keywords 3, 4 and 5 in another, you would use a search query of the following kind:

(key word 1 AND key word 2) OR (key word 3 AND key word 4 AND key word 5)   

Sometimes the difference between a highly efficient search query and an inefficient one can be the use of a single order, so we'd recommend that when you use these, to have a think about how you'd like our search engine to treat the relationship between the terms that you enter.



Within our search syntax, we have numerous search Commands, and these Fields work just like those in our standard Advanced Search, where you have to type that particular Field name in for our search engine to consider whichever terms that are entered in for that particular Field. This is done within a single order, so between parentheses.

A few examples of our search Fields are as follows:

TAC : looks at any key words within the Title, Abstract or Claims of our patent database.

DESC : looks at any key words within the Description of our patent database.

AN : looks at the original assignee of a patent.

AUTHORITY : looks at the authority in which a patent was applied for or issued.

When you use more than one Field with another, be sure to group the Field in its own Order, which can be done by adding appropriately placed parentheses.

You can find out more about all of our Field Commands in our Search Helper.


Speech Marks

If you ever have terms that are more than one word long, for instance high efficiency, we'd recommend that you contain them within speech-marks. This sets up something called an Exact String. Otherwise, our search engine will automatically insert the AND operator between numerous words in a specific term.



Now that we've gone through the basics of our search Boolean, let's look at an example that puts everything together:

(TAC:((high efficiencyOR ultraefficient OR ultra efficient) AND (photovoltaic OR solar) AND cell)) OR (DESC:((high efficiency OR ultraefficient OR ultra efficient) AND (photovoltaic OR solar) AND cell)) AND (AUTHORITY:(US OR JP OR EP OR WO)) NOT (AN:(Nokia) OR ANS:(Nokia) OR ANC:(Nokia) OR ANCS:(Nokia))

What does this look for?

As you can see here, we’re looking for the keywords high efficiency or ultraefficient and the variants photovoltaic or solar along with the term cell. We’re looking for high-efficiency solar cells, and we’re using all possible variants of these words, and gathering each variant group together within a pair of parentheses. We’re looking for these terms to appear in the title, abstract or claims, AND in the descriptions of patents.

If any given patent has these terms in either the title, abstract Or claims, AND are mentioned in the description, they will appear in the results.  

We’re also looking for any patents that were applied for or issued in the following authorities: the US, Japan, the EPO and WIPO. This means that any patent from outside of these 4 authorities won’t show up in the results.

We’d however like to OMIT any patents by the Assignee Nokia. This would include them being the original assignee, standardized assignee, current assignee or current standardized assignee of any patents.

As you can see from the above, once you understand the basics of Boolean, you can construct as simple or as complex a search as you’d like.





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