Exploring Patent Relationships to Enhance Understanding

Feb 11, 2021

Featured Image-Exploring Patent Relationships to Enhance Understanding

Innovation is a process that requires continually building on existing ideas and applying our current knowledge to produce something new. The patent documents of the world tell the story of our technological progress. While an individual patent may be a very limited snapshot of a moment in time in a certain field, patents, viewed collectively, have profound relationships to those filed before, as well as those filed later. By navigating those relationships, patent professionals can research with greater efficiency and develop a better understanding of their invention and its place in the process of innovation. 

Backward Citations 

backward citation (also known as a “reverse citation) is a reference in a patent’s file wrapper to an earlier-filed patent or non-patent document. Backward citations often include those references that are disclosed either by an inventor or prosecuting attorney who has a duty to disclose any material prior art that is known to them. They may also reference any prior art that a patent examiner found to be material to their patentability analysis in conducting a prior art search.  

 Backward citations are important because they help tell the story of the invention described in a patent document. Backward-cited references illustrate the progress that has been made over time. They also reveal how concepts and ideas have been used or combined from earlier inventions to produce something new. With that in mind, patent professionals can use backward citations to gain a better understanding of an invention, the inventive step that was needed to create it and the technological field to which it relates. 


Forward Citations 

Once a patent application has been filed and published, it may become prior art to later-filed patent documents and the inventions they disclose. Being publicly available, the ideas contained in published patent documents often become foundational to later innovations by either inspiring new improvements to old inventions or by inspiring something new altogether. Forward citations tell us how many and which later-filed patent documents cite to a specific patent document, and many use a patent’s forward citations as an indicator of its value, reasoning that a patent that is cited frequently by other patents is probably fundamental or important to subsequent innovation. While using forward citations for patent valuations is controversial, patent professionals can use forward citations to help identify significant patent documents when conducting patent searches, as well as to help them understand the course taken by technological development. 

Citations 2

Patent Families 

There are many reasons an inventor might file several patent applications for a particular invention. Domestically, an inventor may end up filing several patent applications that have the same priority claim, such as when a continuation is filed to pursue additional claims, or a divisional patent application is filed to carve out a distinct invention from a parent application. An inventor may also file identical patent applications in multiple countries to ensure that the geographic scope of their patent protection meets their needs. Together, all of the filings that pertain to a single invention are considered to be a “family.” Patent families can be used to help patent practitioners determine the scope of protection that was attained by an inventor and better advise their clients on where they can operate without infringing on existing patent rights. 

Family relations

Exploring Relationships With LexisNexis TotalPatent One® 

The TotalPatent One® patent search platform helps patent professionals explore patent relationships by allowing users to access documents from over 100 worldwide authorities, while making it simple to navigate networks of documents with backward, forward and familial patent citations. The intuitive TotalPatent One interface, which is known for providing important information in an easily understood format, groups and displays a patent documents citations and family references for quick and convenient access.  


By allowing users to navigate directly to the full documents of each cited document and family reference, users gain a better understanding of how an invention was conceived, how it was protected and the impact it had on later development. 


Learn more about TotalPatent One by reading Improve Your Patent Search Experience and  

Do This, Not That: Tips for More Efficient Patent SearchesFind training resources here 

Integration of Automation in the Patent Process

Automation has come a long way in a short amount of time, thanks to developments in big data, machine learning, robotics and the Internet of Things. Many people and businesses have grown accustomed to having software and machines perform tasks that humans once...

The Innovation Momentum 2022 Report Reflects Critical Global Topics and Highlights the Most Innovative Regions of the World

In a brand-new intellectual property report, we’ve revealed a unique methodology capturing the Innovation Momentum of the last two years and recognizing technology companies with exceptional technological relevance for the future and those outperforming their...

LexisNexis® acknowledges the world’s outperforming companies with its “Innovation Momentum 2022: The Global Top 100” report

“Innovation Momentum 2022: The Global Top 100” is the first patent-based report to measure short-term innovation momentum, recognizing innovators with exceptional technological relevance for the future and outperforming their peers.19 January 2021, New York, United...

How Ex Parte PTAB Decision Data Helps to Streamline Prosecution Processes

A distinguishing strength of a good patent practitioner is the ability to analogize or discern similarities. The problem is that finite hours are available for sifting through thousands of pages of online resources to find the needed information. This is where help...

LexisNexis® further champions the needs of patent professionals with new high-value dataset supporting more accurate and relevant prosecution guidance

LexisNexis® introduces new legal issue analysis for PTAB ex parte decisions in LexisNexis PatentAdvisor®, enabling search issue-tagged decisions and locating effective arguments at every interaction with the USPTO.11 January 2022, New York, United States – LexisNexis®...

Everything You Need to Know About 11/11 Aka Singles Day—The World’s Most Popular Online Shopping Day

By Xinyao Liu, Online Brand Protection Consultant 11/11, November 11th started as an unofficial holiday in China to celebrate single people. The holiday is referred to as Singles Day, Bachelor's Day, and double 11. In Chinese, a single person with no branches to the...