“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” – Thomas A. Edison
This is a suggested seven step strategy for conducting preliminary searches of U.S. patents and published applications using free online resources of the USPTO and its bi-lateral partner EPO (European Patent Office).
- Brainstorm terms to describe your invention based on its purpose, composition and use.
- Use these terms to find initial relevant Cooperative Patent Classification using the USPTO website’s Site Search box (www.uspto.gov). In the Site search box found in the top right hand corner of the home page enter “CPC Scheme [plus keywords(s) describing invention]”; for example, if you were trying to find CPC Classifications for patents related to umbrellas, you would enter “CPC Scheme umbrella”. Scan the resulting classification’s Class Scheme (class schedules) to determine the most relevant classification to your invention. If you get zero results in your Site Search, consider substituting the word(s) you are using to describe your invention with synonyms, such as the alternative terms you came up with in Step 1.
- Verify the relevancy of CPC classification you found by reviewing the CPC Classification Definition linked to it (if there is one).
- Retrieve U.S. patent documents with the CPC classification you selected in the PatFT (Patents Full-Text and Image) database (http://patft.uspto.gov). Review and narrow down the most relevant patent publications by initially focusing on the front page information of abstract and representative drawings.
- Using this selected set of most relevant patent publications, review each one in-depth for similarity to your own invention, paying close attention to the additional drawings pages, the specification and especially the claims. References cited by the applicant and/or patent examiner may lead you to additional relevant patents.
- Retrieve U.S. published patent applications with the CPC classification you selected in Step 3 in the AppFT (Applications Full-Text and Image) database (http://appft.uspto.gov). Use the same search approach used in Step 4 of first narrowing down your results to the most relevant patent applications by studying the abstract and representative drawings of each on its front page. Then examine the selected published patent applications closely, paying close attention to the additional drawings pages, the specifications and especially the claims.
- Broaden your search to find additional U.S. patent publications using keyword searching in PatFT or AppFT databases, classification searching of non-U.S. patents on the European Patent Office’s Worldwide Espacenet patent database (http://worldwide.espacenet.com (link is external)) and searching non-patent literature disclosures of inventions using the free electronic and print resources of your nearest Patent and Trademark Resource Center ( http://www.uspto.gov/ptrc).
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Source: The United States Patent and Trademark Office.