Every winter there are tragic stories of skiers who are caught in avalanches. Sometimes it is not possible to dig them out in time.
Some skiers carry electronic trackers, and there are also airbags available so that pulling a cord inflates it. An example is the patent specification Vest with air bag by William Haddacks of Toronto, Canada, illustrated here.
The idea is that the wearer is brought closer to the surface, and that the air bag, having expanded, deflates and leaves an air pocket for the skier while he or she awaits rescue.
The general idea may sound simple enough to search for -- simply combine the word "avalanche" with "air bag" -- but while some material can easily be found, others are more difficult to identify. As in the illustrated example. This explanation is based on using the free Espacenet database.
The searcher must allow for plurals (an extra character such as an s is requested by adding a ?), and for the spelling airbag (hence airbag? or "air bag?", where the quotes indicate a phrase). Using the title search box is not a good idea, as the second box, which searches the abstract (summary) as well provides more wording to search.
avalanche? and (airbag? or "air bag") in the title gives us 4 hits.
avalanche? and (airbag? or "air bag") in the title or abstract gives us 7 hits.
A big problem is that many relevant patents only mention the word "avalanche" in the description, which Espacenet does not search. This is where other methods can be used. The initial page of the description often mentions other patents, and the "View all" command seen when a patent title is clicked on lists the patents cited as relevant against the known patent document and also later patent documents where in turn it was cited as similar to a later patent application. This can be very rewarding in suggesting other wording, besides showing other patents that may be relevant. For example:
(skier? or avalanche?) and (airbag? or "air bag") in the title or abstract gives us 11 hits.
As it is normal to revise searches, it is a good idea to add relevant patent specifications to "My patents list". This is a folder that is accessible on the left hand side of the screen, and is added to by ticking the "in my patents list" box. By doing so, any searches that show a document already in the list will already be ticked, so you know you do not need to look at it again.
Another good idea is to begin to check for relevant classifications. The latest list of 11 hits shows numerous blue "EC" classes, which can be clicked on to give definitions of the subject. The most obvious one seems to be A41D13/018, automatically inflatable garments. Ticking the class and then Copy transfers the search to a new search screen, wiping any wording.
As the idea of airbags -- or balloons ? -- is already covered, there is no need to use that wording. Adding to that class the wording
skier? or avalanche? in the title or abstract gives us 14 hits.
In fact, is skier too limiting ? Let's revise it again.
skier? or ski or skis or skiing or avalanche? in the title or abstract gives us 21 hits.
ski? would give us "skid", which we don't want. We still wouldn't have found the Haddacks document, though, as none of these words occur in the abstract. Its description does mention avalanches.
There is no perfect search. The more possibilities you add to a search, the more likely it is that unwanted material will turn up. We always advise those looking to see if their invention is new to ask for help from a Patlib library rather than relying on a look in free databases as it is so easy to miss relevant patents.