AOP Community Resources

Dead Ends


Throughout each search, there is a chance that you will stop finding relevant results temporarily, and it will feel like you hit a wall or a dead end.  While this can occur for a variety of reasons, it is primarily due to you exhausting all the options within a database, industry, or technology.

The best way to fix this issue is to change your search strategy.  If you stay in the same area for your whole search, you will eventually run out of potential references and may miss something in a different industry or field.  Changing and refreshing your search strategy can be as simple as using new resources, keywords, and parameters.  Try to remember these two important questions:

  • Where else was this technology used?
  • What other terms are used to describe this technology?

The first place to start is the Known Art list.  Even though Known Prior Art cannot be submitted, Known references can guide you toward one of the easiest alternative approaches for identifying new leads.  The Known references can provide alternative keywords, individuals and companies to help augment your search.  In addition, each of these references has its own list of citations, which essentially creates a tree of potential leads to follow.


Even though the Study patent uses a set of keywords to describe the technology, those are not necessarily the only terms that can be used to find relevant references.  This is especially true for highly technical fields in which very specific words are used by practitioners in the field.  The use of jargon makes it difficult to find the desired references when those specific terms are not used as a search input.

For example, the term “smartphone” is widely used today, but the relevant technology may be in documents from 10-20 years ago using the terms “cell phone,” “mobile phone,” or “PDA.”  One of the easiest ways to find synonyms is to consult a thesaurus of technical terms.  One of the best and most comprehensive is the NASA Thesaurus Vols. 1 & 2, which can be downloaded for free online.

Because patent applicants are allowed to define the terms they use in their patent applications, it is possible that the technical terms used in patents or published patent applications are not the ones most-widely used by practitioners in a field.  To find the most-widely used terms in a given field, Researchers should utilize relevant journal articles.  Preferably, the chosen authors of journal articles are those considered to be the foremost experts in their own fields.

Be aware that scientists or engineers from different fields may use different terms to describe the same concept or phenomenon.  For example, physical chemists may describe the behavior or property of a material or a natural phenomenon using terms that differ from those used by solid-state physicists.

Post-LDR Examples

Another option to support a struggling search is to find a patent or journal article that discloses the Study technology after the LDR.  Although this reference cannot be submitted as prior art, the details of the reference and any listed citations could guide you to relevant references dated before the LDR.  If you identify a reference that was published within 1-2 years after the LDR, most of the citations in the bibliography or footnotes are likely to have been published before the LDR.

This related post-LDR reference may also describe previous studies and research on the invention in the introduction or background portion of the journal article.  Or, in the case of a review article, the description or discussion of the study patent-related studies will be disclosed throughout the whole reference itself.  This is the main reason why review articles, if available, provide a convenient and comprehensive listing of other references and description of studies that are closely-related to the invention claimed in the study patent.