Patent Search Process

Searching for a patent has become considerably easier as a result of all the online resources now available. The Patent Search Information Site includes individual pages with information regarding specific tools used in the patent search process. In particular, see the listing of free web-based U.S.Patent Databases and the information regarding the U.S. Manual of Classification and Classification Definitions.

An excellent book on the patent search is cited below, followed by the simplified seven step patent search process that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recommends. Many users will be able to accomplish their own searches or to at least conduct a preliminary patent search following this process. If a patent attorney is ultimately needed, see also How to Find A Patent Attorney.

Get help with this book on the patent search process:

Patent Searching Made Easy: How to do Patent Searches on the Internet and in the Library

Patent Searching Made Easy: How to do Patent Searches on the Internet and in the Library (Kindle e-book)

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has developed a simplified seven step patent search process. All of these steps can now be done using free Web sources. (See other sections of the Patent Search Information Site for more detail on each source used in this search process and to gain additional assistance in conducting patent searches.)

Here are the seven basic steps the USPTO suggests:


(1).Brainstorm keywords related to the purpose, use and composition of the invention.

(2).Look up the words in the Index to the U.S. Patent Classification to find potential class/subclasses.

(3).Verify the relevancy of the class/subclasses by using the Classification Schedule in the Manual of Classification

(4). Read the Classification Definitions to to verify the scope of the subclasses and note "see also" references. (This helps to identify additional classes and subclasses possibilities for your search.)

The first steps of the USPTO process include the identification of patent classes and sub-classes to use for your search. This is the preferred method of doing the most accurate and complete search, but it is also possible to do a more general keyword or concept search and obtain good results. This video shows how to use the USPTO database effectively for this type of search:

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(5). Search the Issued Patents and the Published Applications databases by "Current US Classification" (field in search screen) and access full-text patents and published applications. (See also U.S. Patent Databasesfor other free web patent databases you can search in addition to the USPTO databases. Sometimes other versions of the U.S. patent databases are easier or more convenient to search.)

(6). Review the claims, specifications and drawings of documents retrieved for relevancy.

(7). Check all references and note the "U.S. Cl." and "Field of Search" areas for additional class/subclasses to search.


The USPTO also provides a tutorial on patent searching:

Tutorial: How to Conduct a Preliminary U.S. Patent Search: A Step-by-Step Strategy.

See also: Patent Search Apps for the iPad and iPhone for some great apps that allow you to search the U.S. patent database.

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