Does Image-based Prior Art Analysis really save time?

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First, let us take a small trip around prior art searches and the importance of image-based prior art analysis. 
A prior art search is performed in order to find hidden/unseen prior arts which can be used as evidence against a patent to order to invalidate it. Now a question which bugs the most of us is what can be given as a valid prior art while conducting an invalidation/validity search?

Prior art is a manifestation that the invention was known prior to the filing of the target patent. It can be anything known in books, journals, published papers, blogs, oral descriptions, public exhibitions and much more.

In order to find relevant prior art, sometimes it gets really tedious to imagine all the ways in which an invention can be expressed. Every person has a different way of thinking and tends to express his/her ideas in different ways. While everyone is busy digging prior arts through traditional ways why not take the road less travelled and go unconventional?

Most of us seek to get information to unearth a valid prior art in text form, ignoring the fact that only images can be used as valid prior art if it is clearly showing the claimed invention. Different countries use different grounds to invalidate a patent. However, analyzing an image which can be useful for invalidating a patent i.e. it can act as a sword against the invention.

The famous Donald Duck story
In this popular case, Dutch Patent Office used the images from the Donald Duck story showing a method of raising a ship by filling it with ping pong balls and refused a patent application filed by Inventor Karl Kroyer on a method of raising the sunken ship by filling it with buoyant plastic bodies.


While conducting prior art searches, if finding related patents and literature is difficult, it is always best to look at images. It is well known to all that whatever we see, we analyze it better.
Does it sound unreal? Well, it isn’t. How did you ask? Let me show you an example.

For Example
An invention claims an arm mount with a fitment used to affix any portable device.


Supposing the above-shown figure can act as prior art to invalidate the invention though it is not mentioned in words but can be clearly seen from the figure. Despite limiting ourselves to text-based analysis, a single image can solve a purpose. An image prior art is only useful if it is invalidating the claimed invention clearly i.e. a person skilled in the art is able to gather information just by analyzing it.
No wonder a single image can invalidate a big-time patent.

Let’s take another example
An invention claims an easily detachable shoe without any shoelaces.


Challenges in Image-Based Analysis
Image analysis is not an easy task as it requires an analyst to go through multiple images. Also, various parts pictorially described in the patent drawings are labelled with unique numbers and the meaning of these numbers can be referred to by going through the description of the patent. Therefore, the analyst has to continuously navigate between the description of the patent and drawings which can be very annoying and time-consuming, and thus can affect the overall efficiency of the analyst.

The image-based analysis is most important in the domains wherein the images could pictorially cover the subject matter in question, such as in the case of Mechanical technology, semiconductor technology, and circuits based technology. However, the image-based analysis requires a lot of patience and most of the time it is time-consuming as mentioned earlier. Therefore, instead of increasing the speed of the analysis, the image-based analysis can be very tiresome and the analysts mostly prefer to go through the patent description instead of referring to the images in the first place because whether they analyze the images or not they always have to end up going through the entire description of the patents. Due to all these reasons, image-based analysis is not used as a preferable analysis strategy as its shortcomings completely over-weights its usefulness.

Advanced Image Analysis Tool by TT Consultants
Considering the importance of image analysis and aforementioned problems, an “Image Analysis” tool has been developed by TT Consultants which finds the definition of labels referred to in the images from the description of the patent and then overlays the definitions of the labels over the images themselves (highlighted in red colour in the below image). Therefore, the analyst does not have to change the view to the description to find those definitions. This tool makes patent reading and analyzing easier than ever before.

Spatial map- TT Consultants

Wrapping Up
Analyzing visual information is much easier than reading a long sentence. Images, flow charts, diagrams, etc. are not only capable of successfully elucidating an idea, but they also help in understanding and also provide information that might be missing in textual form.

As it is very well said that a picture is worth a thousand words and It’s always easy to relate things described pictorially rather than words.

Use our groundbreaking image analysis tool and let the picture speak for itself!


Prabhmehak Kaur and Suraj Pal Singh

About TTC
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TT Consultants is a leading partner in intellectual property (IP) management. Our worldwide service range comprises both legal and portfolio services, as well as strategic IP consulting and cutting-edge software solutions for effective IP management.
The TT Consultants offers a range of efficient, high quality solutions for your intellectual property management ranging from Patentability Search, Invalidation Search, FTO (Freedom to Operate), Patent Portfolio Management, Patent Monetization, Evidence of Use, Claim Chart Mapping, and much more. We provide both law firms and corporations in many industries with turnkey solutions.
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