Tutorial – Patent Family Trees Created From PAIR Data

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 crawl PEDs or Private/Public PAIR 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 Tree Tool

    Click on the Downloading Tools menuthen Visualize US Patent Family Trees

  2. Specify the Data Source for the Family Tree

    Select the desired data source. By default, it is PEDs, which acts as the mirror of Public PAIR, but you can also select Private PAIR and Public PAIR directly.

  3. List Patent/Application Numbers for the Family

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

  4. 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.

  5. Specify Output Options

    Here you can specify various output formats and 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 have ClaimMaster store family data in a CSV file and also pull PDF copies of the published patents and applications from the tree.

  6. Generate the tree

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

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.

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.