How to Do a Patent Search Yourself

Finding out how to do a patent search yourself involves a number of steps. Many entrepreneurs opt to do their own patent search to save money. Although conducting your own search is a reasonable idea, you must be cautious. As an entrepreneur, you may not know how to accurately perform a search. You can miss key information that will be vital to your case. A professional patent search would be the best option, but there is nothing wrong with performing one yourself.

Every entrepreneur can benefit from performing a patent search because it will expose you to the products that are similar to yours. If you find a product that closely resembles your own, you may decide to come up with a new invention altogether. You can also research the history of similar products to learn more about the patent process.

The United States Patent Office Search Page will be one of your key resources. Before starting your search, it is important to gather free search tools. You will have to use free and paid search tools to retrieve adequate results. You also need to come up with a strategy to help streamline the search process. An example of a good strategy would be using all of the free search tools to gather basic information then paying for search tools as needed.

The Patent Office website is easy to use, and it has a Help section that offers decent advice to patent researchers. You should also consider using another site named Free Patents Online. This website provides fast and easy access to PDF documents and images. You may have a difficult time trying to access PDF documents using the United States Patent Office (USPTO) system. If you hit a brick wall with USPTO, then log onto Free Patents online to continue your search.

Free Patents Online will prove to be a very valuable resource in your search. Use it to double-check information you find about patents on other sites. Free Patents Online has a faster operating system than USPTO so use it to search for images and PDF documents which typically take a long time to load.

The Google tool will not enable you to search for specific terms within patents or a patent application. The database is a bit undeveloped and does not provide information about recent patents or applications. However, the Google search engine is still a necessary resource. Use it to gather general information about older patents.

Google does provide information about a lot of patents including the first one ever issued. Despite its limitations, the Google database will help you significantly research patents. Use it in conjunction with the Free Patents Online and USPTO databases. Google’s ability to source information regarding older patents will be very helpful.

Use the Advanced Search Option when researching patents on Free Patents Online and USPTO. This option allows you to select specific search terms to perform a comprehensive search of patents in your field. Old patent references will be helpful, and Google pulls data from archived records and articles.

For our search, we used the term -SPEC “insulating beverage container”. The search results rebounded 27 patents filed with that terminology. The USPTO recovers all patents dating back to 1976. Although this is helpful, it does limit your results. That’s why it’s important for you to use other resources to find patents that predate 1976.

The ability to research every patent ever made may seem excessive, but it is necessary. Inventors need to be familiar with all of the past and present products that are similar to their own. A thorough search will reveal thousands of patents. The search term “SPEC/thermos” uncovers thousands of patents. Our team conducted a search on June 30, 2015, and they uncovered 1144 patents with “thermos” terminology. We also advise you to play with search field terminology to narrow results. You can use a variety of keywords such as “SPEC/thermos and SPEC/beverage”. That will narrow your search down to 241 results.

Initially, your search should be broad and then you gradually narrow down the results by relevancy. But, there is one important aspect of the search that you must remember. The keywords you use to search for a product may not be the keywords a patent attorney or agent would use. This is one of the drawbacks of doing an individual search. To combat this problem, try using different keywords to research similar patents. Common terminology will return a number of results, but specific terms will help you access a targeted database. A patent attorney or agent has a vocabulary that is broader than the average inventor’s, so research words that can be used to describe your product. Be sure to write all of these words down.

You limit your search when you only use a specific set of words. Research synonyms for your keywords. This will broaden your search and uncover patents and information you were not familiar with.

Once you stumble on the proper keyword combination, the doorway starts to open.

US Patent idea Search wikihow

You may wonder why getting your invention “patented” is so important. A patent grants intellectual property rights to an inventor. It prevents other people from creating or selling the product that you made. It gives you sole proprietary ownership of that product and idea. Patents are good for 20 years. You cannot patent a product that has already been patented. The United States Patent and Trademark office only patents products made and sold in the U.S.. You have to apply for a separate patent in a different country.

Plan ahead.

Performing your own patent search requires time, energy, and skill. Experts encourage you to familiarize yourself with the process even if you decide to hire someone else to complete the search. The search will be extensive, so it will take a considerable amount of time to complete. Experts suggest you set aside a couple of weeks to thoroughly research your patent. A couple of weeks is just the starting point; you will probably need more. Once you’ve selected your search tools, spend some time playing around with them to gain an understanding of how they work.

It is also important that you keep a record of all search results and terminology. You want to be able to easily access this information in the future. Accurate records include date/time of search, name of the search database, search terminology/classes, and patents processed.

Brainstorm relevant terms.

To streamline the process, you need to be honest about your product and its capabilities. Look at the notes you wrote about your invention and create a description based on this record. Keep this description detailed to include all keywords and their synonyms. Include technical terms in your description when you can. Using keywords in your product description will help you with your patent.

Search the USPTO website

Navigating the USPTO website requires a bit of skill. You will need to be able to familiarize yourself with the site layout. The USPTO interface has a search bar in the upper right-hand corner. Click the search bar to enter keywords in the search field. Use the search term “CPC scheme”, a new term that the USPTO uses in its classification system. You can type CPC scheme into the search bar and then use one of your other keywords. Brainstorming gives you the opportunity to create a selection of keywords you can use throughout your search.

Why It Matters

The United States has a law that enables inventors with an original product to get a patent. The patent protects the product for 17 to 20 years. This invention could make you very wealthy. Many inventors have become millionaires because they have created and patented a new product. The patent prevents others from creating your product or selling it. Many inventions have been patented, but there are still ideas out there that haven’t. A patent search is important because it allows you to research the history of your idea. You will find all the products that are similar to your own, and you may even find your invention!

A patent search prevents you from appending time and money on getting a patent only to be denied because the invention already exists.

In the past, the cost to hire a patent lawyer deterred many inventors from pursuing a patent. Many ideas went lost or snapped up by larger companies that made huge profits. Now, the expense is no longer an excuse. You can conduct a search yourself and get expert advice from a PTRC.

The Bad Old Days

Be thankful for technology. Many years ago, it was difficult to properly research patents. Information was available, but it required inventors to look through books, go the library, or visit the U.S. Patent Office. The internet has completely revolutionized the search process. Now, the USPTO has uploaded its information into a database, and other websites have created patent databases for review.

In the past, inventors had to pay a minimum of $500 to hire a patent lawyer or agent to perform a search. This price could increase based on the complexities of the case. If the researchers uncovered an existing patent for the product, then the inventor would lose the money they spent on the search.

Many inventors cannot afford to have their money go down the drain. An individual search allows you to save money by doing the research yourself.

Online Patent Searches

If it turns out that your invention has never been addressed in a patent, it may be the right time for you to register for a patent.

Use the internet databases provided and keep a notebook with your product descriptions and keywords handy. Refer to this notebook when you conduct your search. Try to print all of the important information regarding the patents such as PDF documents and images. You also have access to patent applications. By researching applications, you will see the terminology that works and the inventions that get denied. You will also learn more about the application process.

Google Patents offers information dating back to the 1790s when US patents were first issued. The USPTO does not go back that far, but it provides information on current patents and applications.

Offline Patent Searches

An offline patent search will require a bit more legwork. You will need to visit the Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries. These libraries are located all throughout the United States. The USPTO calls them Patent and Trademark Resource Centers. At these centers, librarians and trained staff are on hand to assist you with your search. They help you find and use databases and other search tools. They also do much more.

Patent and Trademark Resource Center staffers help you access specialty databases such as PubEAST and PubWEST. Typically, these databases are reserved for people in the science or medical field, but inventors can gain access through the resource center. Staffers help you with the application process by explaining steps and accompanying fee schedule. Many of these resource centers offer classes teaching inventors about intellectual property rights. A staffer can help you sign up. They can also help you research large-scale companies and see if they are trying to patent your invention. They can also provide a directory of patent attorneys in your area.

 The USPTO website has more information regarding PTRCs and a directory of PTRCs in your area. Access to a PTRC is free because they are located in public libraries. All you need is a library card!

Step Reality Check for Inventors

As an inventor, you have two options when you want to pursue a patent: 1. Hire a patent attorney for $500 or more. 2. Conduct an individual patent search.

So far, this article has provided a plethora of information that will help you conduct your own patent search. You can save money by using online databases such as Google, the USPTO, and Free Patents Online. You can even go to a PTRC and get free help with your search from a librarian.

The USPTO has put together a comprehensive guide to help individual patent searchers. The guide is extensive and includes information regarding patent retrieval and review, the application process, and the Patent classification system.

If you need help with a patent search, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.