View Patents: Everything You Need to Know
Finding how to view patents can be a tricky thing, especially if you're unsure if your patent is unique. 3 min read updated on February 01, 2023
Finding how to view patents can be a tricky thing, especially if you're unsure if your patent is unique. An inventor can view patents by doing a patentability search online or in person with the U.S. Patent Office to determine if his or her idea has already received protection. The search is highly advised to prevent the potentiality of seasoned or beginner inventors encountering a roadblock after investing too much time and effort.
Ways to Do a Patent Search
When you conduct a patent search, you can see other inventions to help you refine and improve your device or design so that it does not infringe on anyone else's patent. Although you do the patentability search online, many people have performed the most thorough and optimal searches by visiting the library of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which is available to the public in Arlington, Virginia.
Since not everyone can travel to northern Virginia, the USPTO opened up libraries in some major cities throughout the country. At these locations, you can look at microfilm or hard copies of the patents that you may identify as similar to yours. To further provide convenience, you can also browse through U.S. patents and patent applications by visiting their site. You will have options to do a quick search, advanced, or numbers search for either of the two databases.
Additionally, there are several free sites, including Google's Patent Search which you can search to view patents. There can be downsides to using the internet for a search. While online accessibility is indeed valuable, it can have limitations due to database content or your individual experience.
What Happens After the Search?
After you have done a patentability search and confirmed that your idea is original, you still may want to hire a professional patent searcher. Even though it is potentially expensive to hire a searcher, particularly one licensed to practice by the USPTO, it is highly recommended to do so because a preliminary search is not enough, especially if done using only the internet.
Unfortunately, you cannot do all research electronically. The reason for this is because the online database has only records starting from 1976. If you need to look through the whole scope of patents to ensure you are not duplicating something with existent protection, a patent searcher will need to look beyond the limited image scans of online searches.
Use a Patent Number to View Patents
To fully utilize the patent information system, you must use a patent number, which is often found on manufactured objects. No matter when issued, in sort of a magical way, with the patent number you can pull up a full-text PDF of the patent when searching. It works universally with USPTO, Google Patent Search, the pat2pdf website, and practically every free site.
If you want to search by inventor or topic because you do not have a patent number, your options may change. For the full text of patents issued after 1975, use one of these sites:
- Google Patent
Searching in 1975 or earlier without the patent number can present some hurdles. The USPTO website has patents issued between 1790 and 1975 but only by entering specific search criteria:
- Current U.S. classification
- Patent number
- Issue date
Do You Need to Know Particular Patents to Search?
You may not have a specific patent in mind. In that case, you may want to just search by subject. There are several ways to go about doing that type of search:
- Use a research database for a specified discipline, such as medical or chemical, and filter the results to show only patents.
- Follow the Seven-Step U.S. Patent Search Strategy using the USPTO resources.
- Search by a specific keyword.
To look up patent applications, patent documents, or drawings, the Public PAIR page on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office can be an excellent resource for you. The site will require that you provide a patent number or application number. If you are on Google Patents, use the recommended external links found on the page for Espacenet or Patentscope to find published documents in the patent case you are researching.
If you need help with how to view patents, 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.