Collaborative search and sensemaking of patents

Suresh K. Bhavnani, Gavin Clarkson, Matthew Scholl

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Despite the large number of patent searches conducted by professional patent searchers and inventors, little is known about how such searches are actually performed. Here we describe a qualitative study of experienced patent searchers as they conducted in-context searches at a technology transfer office. Based on studies of expert search and sensemaking in other domains, we expected the professional searchers to (1) use well-formed search strategies that were effective for patent search, and (2) rapidly make sense of the novelty of an invention by constructing new representations to organize existing patents that appear relevant. Instead, we observed the searchers perform simplistic preliminary searches and then exchange their search process and results with inventors and patent lawyers to collaboratively make sense of the patentability and licensability of the invention. Furthermore, their sensemaking consisted of selecting known representations of patents to organize the new information, an approach we call "weak" sensemaking. These results suggest implications for designing systems that support the observed collaborative "weak" sensemaking with the goal of helping the users to more effectively determine the patentability and licensability of an invention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages6
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes
Event28th Annual CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - Florence, Italy
Duration: Apr 5 2008Apr 10 2008


Other28th Annual CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems


  • Interviews
  • Patent search
  • Qualitative study

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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