How To Read a Patent for Patent Searches

To conduct an effective patent search and also to understand the scope of a patent, it is important to understand what all information is available in a patent document and how to read a patent for patent searches.

Content of a patent

A patent is a meticulous document. It consist of different important fields necessary to gain insight about the invention. Important among which are:

Patent/Publication number: Unique Identification Number of a Patent or a Published Patent Application

Consists of several parts:

Two Letter Country Code such as US, JP, EP etc. signifying the region of patent protection.

Optionally any other letter(s) following the country code, indicating the kind of patent. E.g. in US, prefix USD signifies design patent, USRE signifies reissued patent

Numeric part, number of digits vary with country as well as kind of patent document – granted patent or application

Kind code, which is usually alphanumeric and denotes whether the document is an application or a granted patent, e.g. in US Patents – A1 denotes application while B2 denotes a granted patent.

TITLE: Few words or a sentence specifically relating to the invention

ABSTRACT: Brief summary of the invention as described and claimed as novel in the patent

PRIORITY, APPLICATION, PUBLICATION AND GRANT DATE: These dates are of great significance practically for all kind of patent searches

INVENTOR(s): All inventors of the patent would be mentioned

ASSIGNEE(s): If the patent/application has already been assigned, for example to a company – it would be listed here.


All patents are classified based on their technical fields using one or the other classification system

Some of the important systems are IPC, USPC etc.

There may be one or several classifications of each type.

REFERENCES/CITATIONS: These are the prior art related to the claimed invention identified either by the inventor or during examination of the patent application.

SPECIFICATION: This is usually the largest field of a patent document and describes-

Background and field of the invention so as to bring out the need for the invention and the problem which is to be solved

Existing or related solutions and their shortcomings

Brief Summary of the Invention stating the invention and how it solves the problem in the background

Detailed Description of the invention describing how the invention is to be carried out and its different forms

CLAIMS: Claims form the lifeline of a patent, patent provides protection only for the claimed invention. Patents only protect the details in claim and don’t focus on the description in the specification.

The knowledge of these patent fields is essential while doing patent searches and to formulate a patent search strategy best suited for your purpose. It would be great to randomly read a few patent documents to acquaint yourself with the pattern if not already done!

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