Patent Family Trees Created From PAIR Data

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Have you ever tried to create a patent family tree of a large family?  Then you know that this task could be error-prone and time-consuming, especially when the family contains many divisional applications, continuations, or continuations-in-part that branch out in multiple directions.

ClaimMaster makes the job of generating a patent family tree of any size very straightforward.  ClaimMaster can automatically query EPO to extract continuity information for a given application number and then generates a visual family tree for the application.  Our tool can also annotate the generated tree with additional of information, such as inventor names, patent titles, examiner name, etc.  

To generate a patent family tree, perform the following steps:

  1. Open the patent family tree tool

    Click on the Downloading Tools menuthen Visualize Patent Family Trees:

    open patent family tree menu

  2. List patent/application numbers for the family

    List one or more patent application #s, patent #s, publication #s in the Lookup Items section.


    You can specify one or more of patent #s, application #s, or publication #s as input, as long as the entries are separated by semicolons, new lines, or spaces. Note, for 10-digit US patent numbers (e.g., 10,000,000), place “_” in front of the # to distinguish it from US patent application #s. For example, entering “_10000000” will fetch the family tree for U.S. Patent No. 10,000,000 while entering “10000000” will download family tree for the U.S. Patent Application No. 10/000,000.

    If “Supplement US apps with biblio data” checkbox is selected, ClaimMaster will also scrape additional bibliographic data for US items (e.g., examiner name, art unit, docket #s, etc.) from the Patent Center and include it in the family tree, as shown below. Doing this might slow down tree generation process, depending on the # of items that need to be supplemented from Patent Center.
    patent family tree

  3. Specify information to include in the family tree

    In the same section of the dialog, you can also specify what bibliographic information to include in the tree (e.g., title, art unit, etc.). If you switch to the Graph Options tab, you can specify additional options relating to coloring and error detection. You can add custom tags to the output graph in the Custom Tags tab. For more information on custom tags, please see the Online Manual.


  4. Specify output options

    Here you can specify the directory where to save the tree. By default, the tree will be opened in the default browser/image editor, but you can also save it to a particular directory. In addition, you can specify whether you want to store family data in a CSV file and also pull PDF copies of the published patents and applications from the tree.

    family tree output options

  5. Generate the patent family tree

    Click on the Generate Family Tree button to start the crawling process and generate the tree based on your selected options.

  6. Edit the output patent family tree (Optional)

    Once a patent family tree is created, you can also edit the output of the tree and regenerate it without specific items, if you’d like. To do so, click Edit Generated Tree button to make edits to the tree.


    Doing so will open a window that will allow you to select all items to include in the tree. If you prune some application #s, they will not be included in the tree when it it regenerated.

    edited patent family tree

Simple Patent Family Tree

Let’s first take a look at using ClaimMaster to map out a well-organized family, such as the one for the U.S. Patent No. 7,893,561.  The patent family tree below was generated by ClaimMaster in about 2-3 minutes. Here, we can see that the original application had a direct continuation (11/482,914) and also a continuation-in-part (11/483,173). The continuation-in-part then had several direct continuations. Overall, the priority claiming approach taken by the applicant in this case is clean and tracing priority between applications is fairly straightforward.

patent family normal

More Complex Patent Family Tree

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. USPTO’s PAIR is replete with patents that take an overly aggressive approach in claiming priority and, eventually, lose track of the priority dates.  This is particularly the case when the family contains multiple continuations-in-part (CIPs).  After several sequential CIPs, it’s becomes next to impossible to determine the exact priority for each claim in the patent.  The applicant might get a false sense of security about the early priority date of his application chain, while the actual priority date is far from certain. No doubt, such applications with convoluted priority dates are more difficult and costlier to enforce due to all the effort that needs to go into determining the exact priority date for each claim.

For example, let’s take a look at the U.S. Patent No. 8,517,583, which doesn’t even have the most convoluted tree compared to some other trees we’ve seen (we simply can’t reproduce them here due to their size).  We can immediately notice that the patent owner is fond of creating CIPs rather than direct CONs:

patent family large

Combined with claiming priorities to simultaneous provisionals and CIPs, this approach leads to a rather complicated patent family tree.  When you claim priority to several chained CIPs, how can you reliably determine the priority date of your claims without painstakingly analyzing the disclosure of each CIP in the chain?  It could be quite difficult. But at a minimum, ClaimMaster’s family tree tool will give you a starting point for the analysis.

Keeping Track of the Bibliographic Data

The latest version of ClaimMaster also added a bibliographic data tab to the HTML-based trees. This tab contains all of the relevant bibliographic information for the applications/patents cited in the tree in a searchable format.

For more information about ClaimMaster’s PAIR family mapping feature, you can look at this demo or read the documentation.

If you’d like to try out ClaimMaster and its many features, including PAIR family mapping, download the free 30-day trial from here.