What Is a Patent Family?
Even though there is no universally recognized definition of what a patent family is, and patent families often vary from database to database, in simple terms, a patent family is a group or collection of patent applications covering either similar or the same technical content.
One of the ideas behind the original concept of having patent families was to make it easier for the folks that enjoy analyzing patent data to quickly identify patents that are related or connected to an individual invention from anywhere in the world.
The idea of a patent family is also utilized in an effort to prevent any kind of confusion or bias when performing patent analysis.
Patent families are also useful when performing patent searches and gathering patent information from multiple patent offices.
Generally, the patent applications within a patent family are connected to each other through priority claims.
The Paris Convention states that the inventors of the patents must file for the same invention in other countries within one year of filing in their original country of application.
There are two main categories of patent families, they are known as simple and extended.
Simple Patent Families
The definition of a Simple patent family according to the EPO is: A simple patent family is a collection of patent documents that are considered to cover a single invention. The technical content covered by the applications is considered to be identical. Members of a simple patent family will all have exactly the same priorities.
Finding simple patent family members is easy with Patent Search by Patentcloud. The image below shows patent number US7777777B2 which is a system and method for active call monitoring. As you can see, there are two simple patent family members related to this patent number, they are both US patents.
To find out more about the two simple patent family members, you can just click on the patent numbers to open up a new page to view them and analyze them further.
Extended Patent Families
Patents are linked to each other via various databases which include INPADOC (International Patent Documentation.) INPADOC is an international collection of patents that the European Patent Office (EPO) creates and maintains; the INPADOC database is updated on a weekly basis and contains patent legal status data and patent families.
The INPADOC grouping of patent families is widely considered to be the most popular, and the patent family members within it are referred to as extended patent family members.
The INPADOC extended patent family is described by the EPO as a collection of patent documents covering a technology. The technical content covered by the applications is similar, but not necessarily the same. Members of an extended patent family will have at least one priority in common with at least one other member – either directly or indirectly.
Using the same US patent number as previously mentioned (US7777777B2) you can see that there are four extended patent family members. This means that they have similar technical content to US7777777B2.
As you can see, there are many advantages to discovering and analyzing patent family members for greater insight.
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