United States Patent and Trademark Office Patent Search

You must first conduct a United States Patent and Trademark Office patent search if you are interested in obtaining a patent. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the government agency that has jurisdiction over registering patents.

History of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (1790-1909)

Patents are very much embedded in early American culture. They were established in some form in many of the original thirteen colonies. The government in 1790 established the federal patent system, which laid the foundation for the current patent system we have today.

The existence of a formal patent system back then exemplifies the importance our country put on invention, creativity, and research. The USPTO’s database still has records of the patents granted between 1790 and 1909. The database contains the patent number, the current U.S. category, the name of the patent owner, the patent date, and the patent location. When available, the database also contains images of the patent document. Patents that were issued starting from 1789 until today are available, and since March of 2001, applications are also available.

In order to view the database’s published patents and patent applications, you must install the TIFF viewer, which can be found on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s website, at http://patft.uspto.gov/. To find a brief summary of how to conduct a search and view available patents, you can click on “7 Step Search Strategy” which can be found at http://www.uspto.gov/products/library/ptdl/services/step7.jsp.

By analyzing the patterns of patents filed centuries ago and patents filed today, we are able to have a better understanding of our predecessors time period.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Resources

When conducting a search for available patents or patent applications, the website of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office can be very helpful, as it contains large amounts of data that can be used for research. All of this data is easily searchable and can find specific issued patents or applications, trademarks, a comprehensive review of intellectual property law and current items in the news.

Once you are on the USPTO’s website, depending on if you are interested in patents or trademarks, you will click on the area that says “patents” or “trademarks.” If you click on patents, a table of contents will appear that will provide an exhaustive list of resources the website provides. One of these resources, and probably the most relevant if you are reading this article, is the “search patents” tab. This will bring you to a number of different search databases. One that is very helpful is the “Patent Number Search,” which can be used to find a copy of a particular patent.

If a patent number is not available or you do not know a specific patent number, you can click on “advanced search” instead. Under advanced search, you can search for a patent by:

  • The owner’s name
  • Patent title
  • Date issued
  • Attorney name
  • Application serial number

A broader search category is the patent classification system. This allows you to search for patents based on a particular subject area. This type of search could be helpful when someone just wants to understand the lay of the land or is just starting out their initial search. Running this search will bring up a classification listing and subclassification listing. The USPTO’s website contains a list of all types of classifications, as well as sub-categories within those classifications if you do not know what to search for. However, this search should be considered preliminary only. A much more comprehensive, thorough search should always be done by an experienced patent agent or attorney.

It should be noted that historically, patent applications that are still pending have not been included in these searches. However, patent law legislation changed this so that recently filed patent applications are now being publicized. This gives the searcher a better understanding of all the patents that have been issued or are currently undergoing a review process. This can be a good way of knowing what competitors are working on or simply keeping track of what has already been done.

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.