Published September 5, 2023

Office (IPO) performs patent searches.

‘SEARCH’ is based on the state-of-the art patent search tool developed and used by the European Patent Office (EPO), widely regarded as the best such tool in the world.

The IPO has worked with the EPO to develop ‘SEARCH’ as the national office version.  The IPO is the first national IP office to implement the tool when conducting patent searches, and is already experiencing the benefits.

‘SEARCH’ will help the IPO’s patent examiners conduct prior art searches in greater depth than ever before, helping examiners identify potential citations during the patent examination process more effectively.

High quality searches are fundamental to ensuring the validity of a patent, and ‘SEARCH’ represents a significant advance in how the IPO performs these.

When conducting searches, the volume of prior art that patent examiners need to consider continues to increase. ‘SEARCH’ will help the IPO maintain the quality of its searches, and as a result, the quality of the patents it grants.

The IPO’s patent examiners will continue to scrutinize the same extensive databases of prior art as previously, but through ‘SEARCH’, are able to do so more efficiently and in greater depth.

Using AI-driven concepts, the new tool will produce results ranked by similarity and – for the first time – by relevance. This will vastly improve examiners’ ability to analyze and refine searches as they progress. 

Along with other improvements, this will help ensure that the most relevant details of any similar invention prior to the filing date of the application are cited (the prior art).

The IPO’s Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Operations Andy Bartlett said:
“Implementing ‘SEARCH’ represents a major advance in terms of how we perform patent searches. This is a fundamental part of ensuring the validity of the patents we grant, reinforcing trust in the high quality and accuracy of our patent searches.

Our customers won’t be able to see it or interact with it directly, but the benefits they will experience are significant.  By implementing ‘SEARCH’, we are embracing the next generation of search tools – the best currently available in the world. 

This will help ensure the IPO remains fit for the future, making the best use of technologies to deliver a world-leading IP environment.”

Steve Rowan, Vice-President of the European Patent Office (EPO) Directorate-General Patent Granting Process said:
“This new search tool is based on the ANSERA system, which has been in use by EPO examiners since 2016. Extending access to the EPO’s state-of-the-art search tool to the UK IPO is a great example of the EPO’s commitment to high-quality patents and supporting innovation in our member states and across the world.

“A high-quality patent starts with a complete and accurate search.  This new search tool can help patent examiners find the most relevant prior art and assist them in their complex work. High-quality patents are crucial for industry – increasing legal certainty for patent applicants, competitors and society.”

Matthew Dixon, Vice-President of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA) said:
“CIPA is delighted to see the IPO co-operating with the EPO to share searching technology. This will bring the tools that have supported the EPO’s renowned search capability to the British patent applications which represent the first step in the international patent protection process for most British applicants.

A thorough search at an early stage of the patent process is a valuable asset for businesses seeking to make informed decisions as they build their international patent portfolio. The new technology should make search reports in UK applications even more useful to patent applicants and their representatives.”

The introduction of ‘SEARCH’ is in addition to the IPO’s ‘One IPO Transformation Programme’, which will see the IPO’s new fully digital service for patent applications launch in 2024.


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