How to read patents quickly?


There are several situations where you may have to read or skim through patents quickly because of a short span of time at hand or during a research involving reading several patents. The simplest thought that comes to mind is to review each patent one by one but it can be hugely time consuming and daunting. 

Below is a technique that can be used during such situations for reading scores of patents fast. While this may not teach you how to read a patent in 60 seconds, it can teach you how to review loads of patents quickly and efficiently. 

Let's assume you have several patents to review. Divide the review into the following 3 layers:

Layer 1 review: Skim through all the patents to shortlist relevant patents

Layer 2 review: Dive a bit deeper into the shortlisted patents to select the most relevant but very few patents

Layer 3 review: Throughly review those relevant patents to understand and interpret them in detail

Let's us look at the 3 layers in a bit more detail: 

Layer 1 review: 

Step 1 - Read the Abstract.

Step 2 - Skim through last few paragraphs/sentences of the background section to understand the problem the patent is trying to solve.

Step 3 - Read the summary section and one or two independent claims to understand the solution of that problem.

Step 4 - Look at any available flowcharts or block-diagrams and correlate them with the independent claims and drawings you reviewed to have a slightly detailed understanding of the solution.

The above 4 steps would give you a high-level idea of what the patent is about and what it is trying to solve. This helps you make the decision whether to eliminate or shortlist it for further review.   

As a side note, I have noticed that Google Patents works best for the above review because of its layout of a patent publication. 

Layer 2 review:

You have already shortlisted some patents of interest from layer 1 for a more detailed review. Review the patents one by one, but not in too much detail (this is to save time). You can use the steps from layer 1 for each patent's review again but include more details in this review. For example, you can do a word search (Ctrl+F) of the term and try to understand the context. You can also look at the drawings mentioning your desired term, to visualise everything. 

If you want, you can do a detailed review as well at this stage but if you have a large number of patents to read, this can be time consuming. Therefore, even at this stage, you should try to eliminate more patents to shortlist only the most relevant ones for a more detailed review. 

Layer 3 review:

If you are not satisfied or are unclear on any patent, you can now read selected portions of description or the entire description section after the above steps. Because most patents are already eliminated, you can review the few remaining patents in detail and construe the claims and different embodiments by paying careful attention to detail. All the time you have saved by avoiding review of irrelevant patents, can be put to use for a detailed review of these remaining patents and deriving conclusions. 

Do comment below if you use or can think of any other ways to read patents fast.

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