The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently added a new artificial intelligence (AI)-based “Similarity Search” feature to the prior art search tools available to examiners. This Similarity Search feature is designed to be an enhanced replacement of the Patent Linguistic Utility Service (PLUS) search tool and provides examiners with optional new search capabilities to access prior art alongside traditional document retrieval approaches. The PLUS search tool received as input a keyword list generated from scanned portions of the Specification being searched and produced a list of only U.S. patents and published U.S. applications that most closely match the Specification. The new AI-based Similarity Search tool receives the full text of the Specification as input and outputs a list of both domestic and foreign patent documents that are similar to the Specification being searched. Further, an examiner can refine the AI-based Similarity Search queries by emphasizing certain Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) symbols and certain paragraphs, sentences, or words in a Specification to focus on specific concepts in the Specification being searched. The AI-based Similarity Search tool queries are completed in seconds, whereas PLUS searches sometimes could take hours to generate.
The USPTO has also established procedures for recording Similarity Search data in the application file. When an examiner uses the Similarity Search tool as part of a search for an application, the examiner’s search history will indicate that AI-based Similarity Search capabilities were used. When an examiner selects a Similarity Search query to be included in the search notes of the application file wrapper, all documents retrieved by that query, along with the query itself, are listed in the search notes. The search results produced using the examiner’s emphasized text and/or CPC symbols for a given application will also be listed in the search history in addition to the emphasized text and CPC symbols if such information is public.
More information is available in the following Notice from the USPTO: https://www.uspto.gov/sites/default/files/documents/ai-sim-search.pdf