Patent families have become almost an important element of any patent information. Fundamentally, patents do not exist in isolation and thus forms a part of much wider world. About 80 million patents have been published worldwide which would almost pile up to the height of Everest. Amongst these patents, its often the case that one invention is linked to others. These connected inventions are the indication of existing patent families.
A patent family is a group of patent documents that describes a single invention or set of related inventions. The patent documents belonging to a family are generally related to each other by one or more common ‘ancestors’, or originating patent applications. The documents in a patent family are often spread across a number of countries. Like a real family, these members inherit information from each other, creating a family tree of documents.
A patent family provides for a good insight about the worldwide status of an Invention. The patent family also helps as an indication of where the invention is protected. Hence the patent families could be very useful in understanding a bigger picture of the technology.