Regular patent monitoring: Why you should use GPI

Monitoring patent data at regular intervals can help you to keep an eye on the latest developments in a given technical area and bring you up to date with the most recent applications and granted patents of companies you're interested in. 

The EPO's Global Patent Index (GPI) provides you with access not only to data from more than 100 intellectual property authorities worldwide, but also to a number of useful monitoring functions. 

But what's the best approach to monitoring in GPI? Is it better to use: 

  1. the publication date (PUD) to limit your search to documents published in a particular month or quarter, or 
  2. the date a document is made available for the first time in GPI (DFE - "date of first exchange")?

To answer this question, it's important to understand how intellectual property authorities around the world provide patent documents to the EPO for searching in EPO tools such as Espacenet and GPI. 

Data delivery procedures vary from one authority to another, with data usually being transmitted to the EPO on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis. A delivery will contain new publications, but may well also contain documents that have been published sometime in the past.  

Figure 1 shows a search for patent documents that were added to GPI for the first time in December 2021 (Date of first exchange column). From the Publication date column you can see that many patent documents delivered to GPI for the first time in December 2021 were actually published much earlier. 

GPI results keyvisual fig one
Fig. 1 - GPI results sorted by ascending publication date. Of the around 500 000 documents added to GPI for the first time in December 2021, approximately 300 000 were published before December 2021. 

In other words, if you use the publication date to limit your search to patent documents published in a particular month, you may not retrieve all relevant documents. You would miss: 

  • documents published months or years ago, but only recently delivered for the first time to the EPO 
  • documents published later on in the month you're monitoring, but only delivered for the first time to the EPO the month after

We therefore recommend that you do not use the publication date (PUD search criterion) to filter GPI searches. To help you find all relevant patent documents, you can instead use the date of first exchange (DFE search criterion), i.e., the date a patent document first became available in GPI (it's similar to the date of availability in Espacenet). Figure 2 shows you how DFE works.

GPI results keyvisual fig two

Fig. 2 - Example of different results depending on the use of publication dates or date of first exchange

For example, in January 2022 you start monitoring technical area "Supporting structures for photovoltaic modules specially adapted for solar tracking" (IPC or CPC H02S20/32). You always want to monitor the previous month, i.e., in January 2022 the documents added in December 2021, in February 2022 those added in January 2022, and so on. Here's what your queries might look like:

  • in January 2022: DFE = 202112 AND (IPC OR CPC = H02S20/32)
  • in February 2022: DFE = 202201 AND (IPC OR CPC = H02S20/32)

Please note:

  • DFE is unique to GPI - no other EPO search tool has a similar function.
  • Just as with monthly monitoring, you can also use DFE for quarterly monitoring. For example, run DFE [202201, 202203] in Q2 2022 to monitor Q1 2022.
  • GPI also allows you to exclude simple families returned in a previous monitoring session - see the GPI user manual for more details.

In summary, you can perform effective regular monitoring in GPI using the powerful search criterion DFE, which allows you to easily identify patent documents added for the first time to GPI in a given month or quarter. A search using DFE instead of PUD will usually return more documents and will help you to find patent documents that might be highly relevant.

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