June 10, 2023
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General Knowledge

Searching the complex world of standards – Finding needle in a haystack

What are Standards?

When we talk about standard searching, the first question that comes to our mind is, ‘what is a standard exactly?’

A standard, or a technical standard, in layman’s terms, can relate to fixed norms or requirements to implement or realize a product, process, system, etc. The basic idea behind standards is to maintain consistency throughout the globe when it comes to technical specifications for a particular technology.

Various Standard Developing and Setting Organizations play a pivotal role in standards’ development and large scale implementation. Some of the most famous standard organizations include ETSI, 3GPP, IEEE, ITU, ANSI, etc. These organizations carry out rigorous examinations of the proposed technical specifications before finalizing the standards.

The cutting edge mobile and related technologies often have standards associated with them. This reflects nothing but the high chances of locating suitable prior art in related standard documents against a target patent or disclosure.


Importance of Standard Searching:

  • Standards are available for almost all cutting edge technologies. Just to cite some examples, we have 3GPP specifications for mobile communication, IEEE 802.11 for WLAN, ITU standards for audio/video coding, etc.
  • High chances of first availability (of target technical features) in standard based documents. The technical features are often introduced as proposals in standard meetings.
  • Forming part of the published Non-Patent Literature, standard based documents can always serve as better prior art by providing a stronger case as compared to filed/priority-based patents.
  • Identification of relevant standard documents can provide required hints about potential inventors/assignees which can be explored further for locating other patent/NPL prior art.


Types of Standard Documents:

  • Meeting Documents

Building any standard requires vigorous brain storming sessions between the best minds in the world. Frequent meetings are usually held to discuss the proposed documents. All these proposals are documented in directories/FTP servers for easy retrieval. The documents presented in a particular meeting refer as it’s meeting documents.

  • Change Requests (CRs)

Sometimes, the meeting documents are more organized in form of proper change requests that can act as an amendment for the stabilized standard when approved. These are more like revisions of a particular specification.

  • Final/Approved Drafts

These form the approved/accepted technical specifications available for public release.

  • Email Archives

Not only are the brain storming sessions held in the organized meetings, but the inventors are involved in constant discussions over emails with each other. Many a times the specifications are proposed in the emails themselves and approved in the email discussion alone. Thus, many standard organizations, such as, 3GPP and IEEE, maintain specialized Email Server for later retrieval.


Complexities of Standard Searching:

  • High Number of Proposed Documents

Every meeting usually has a large number of proposed documents associated with it. For example, if we randomly pick up a 3GPP meeting, say TSGR1_91, it alone has around 2300 meeting documents associated to it. It becomes very difficult for the analyst to identify a relevant document out of such a big pool.

  • Large Email Archives Repository

When the meeting documents are such large in number, so will the associated emails. The search includes scanning a huge number of emails which may be arranged week wise.

  • Identifying the relevant finalized Standard

It all begins with identifying a relevant standard related to the claimed concept. This is very important as it will help in further identifying a particular RAN, in case of 3GPP, etc.

  • Back Tracing post-dated documents

Another hurdle that is usually faced by the researchers relates to back tracing the post-dated documents. At times, the claimed concept is readily available after the cut-off date, however, locating a pre-dated document on similar lines can be an obstacle.

  • Identification of relevant meetings

Many a times, the identified standard provides a hint to multiple meetings or RANs (as in case of 3GPP). It thus becomes important for the researcher to identify the best meeting to fetch relevant documents quickly without wasting time.


Decoding the Methodology – How do we tackle the situation?

  • Is our subject patent Standard Essential?

For invalidating a subject patent claim, it is very important for an analyst to identify whether the subject patent is standard essential or not. This is done in the initial stage of the search to identify relevant related standards for locating potential prior art documents.

An exemplary method of doing so is by looking at the IPR Declarations available at the ETSI Dynamic Reporting. This helps in identifying relevant standards and their corresponding relevant sections.

  • Identifying the Standard

As mentioned above, the related standards can be identified by the IPR declarations from the associated companies. Normal Google based search also helps in identifying standards related to the same technology. A search with a similar approach can also be conducted on official standards websites, e.g., IEEE-SA, 3GPP advanced search, etc. Another approach is to look at the examiner cited references for relevant standard based documents to begin with.

  • Shortlisting the Relevant Meeting

Once the standard is identified, the next task is to ascertain the corresponding meeting that might contain the needed documents. The relevant meeting can be filtered using specific dates (as the priority dates for invalidation) or related topic of discussion. Similar to the standards, at times, the citations also provide hints about target meetings/meeting documents.

  • Using Chairman Notes/ Meeting Reports/ Meeting Minutes

The next task that we have to tackle is related to the huge number of documents that need to be scanned. Here, the Chairman Notes/ Meeting Reports/ Meeting Minutes come to our rescue. These reports provide us with a brief overview of all documents introduced in the associated meeting. The associated Agenda items also helps us in shortlisting references based on a sub-search performed in the report itself.

  • Exploring the Advanced Search Option (on standard databases)

This strategy basically involves carrying out keyword based search using Advanced Search on standard databases, such as, the 3GPP database. This may include a search with or without a date restriction.

  • Accessing the linked E-Mail Archives

With a great probability of finding a suitable reference, it is obvious for a smart analyst to quickly scan the emails available from the members of the standard organization. The archives can be filtered using dates or can be sub-searched for identification of relevant documents.

  • Targeting Normal Google Search

Just to be comprehensive in our search, we also look for relevant prior art on Google. It has been observed that this search can also quickly help us identify suitable references.

  • Analyzing the citations of the identified references

The analysis of the references that are mentioned in bibliographic details of the identified documents can also reveal strong prior art.

  • Dedicatedly searching for identified potential Inventors/Assignees

It is one of the best strategies to be deployed while performing standard search. The potential inventors/assignees that are identified in the search are again explored with respect to meetings and emails to provide comprehensiveness to the search. The search also includes searching for the subject patent’s inventors/assignees.

Standard Searching requires a combination of high technical expertise, smart & quick analysis along with a sense to identify and work upon hints. Specifically, standard search has become an integral part of modern-day research projects and is quite popular among all types of clients (Law firms, Corporates, individual inventors, etc.). It would not be incorrect to say that a researcher somewhere in this world would have already located a standard related killer prior art while you read this article.

Note: At Expertlancing, our team of has executed numerous projects related to searching standards and finding useful results/insights. Please reach out to us for more information

Written by Lokesh Goel

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