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WIPO introduces new chemical structure searching capability

12 October 2016

Earlier this month, the World Intellectual Property Office announced the addition of a new patent searching tool, which will allow users to locate International patent applications based on chemical structures.  Whilst perhaps not of interest to many, this facility has the potential to revolutionise the searching of chemical subject matter. Making it an exciting addition to the searchers toolbox in this field.

How does it work?

The user can either upload a structure, draw a structure in the “Structure Editor” window, or convert to a chemical structure by name, and the system will generate all the relevant search results.  Therefore, chemical compounds can be identified using both the language appearing in the description and the structures appearing in the accompanying drawings.

Such tools have been available to academia for a long time and, whilst some have been adapted to search both literature and patent databases, dedicated chemical patent searching tools have not been made widely available from intellectual property offices.

What are the benefits?

As many chemists will appreciate, there are often multiple ways to refer to a single chemical compound and it can be very difficult, especially when dealing with large molecules, to determine what these compounds actually look like.  Conversely, it can be very difficult to figure out the correct name for a chemical structure based on its structure.  Both in literature and within patent specifications, commercial brand names for chemicals, CAS names, CAS numbers, IUPAC names (the international standard naming method for chemical compounds), or combinations thereof are often used to describe compounds.  As a result, it should come as no surprise that word searching in chemical fields can be both difficult and time consuming. Therefore, by introducing this feature, it will be considerably easier to find International patent applications relating to particular compounds.

All this should make searching for chemical patents and patent applications quicker, easier and more reliable.  This in turn ought to reduce the cost of searching within the chemical field.

Plans for the future

At present, the WIPO searching tool is restricted to PCT applications written in German and English. In the near future, WIPO plan to include the US national collection among the list of searchable subject matter.

For more information, you can access WIPO’s webinar presentation here, and a help guide (including frequently asked questions) here.

In order to use this new feature, all you need to do is create a free Patentscope account.


Georgia Mann
Life Sciences & Chemistry group

If you require further information on anything covered in this briefing, please contact Georgia Mann (; +44 114 273 3400) or your usual contact at the firm. This publication is a general summary of the law. It should not replace legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

© Withers & Rogers LLP, October 2016