Patent Search Techniques: Know Them All!

An applicant needs to conduct an extensive patent search much before filing a patent application. Tools available online, techniques like searching through keywords or by patent classifications are much used and trusted. In this particular article we will learn in detail about patent search techniques and everything you need to know about it.

What is a Patent Search?

A patent search is conducted prior to filing of a patent application. It basically signifies a detailed examination or search that is done on the pre-existing patents.

As an applicant you can do the patent search yourself but an experienced patent professional will be much versed and well adapted to the searching methods and techniques. As a result the outcomes or results are quite strong and reliable. The most important factor being an experienced person rarely misses out any valuable patent information.

A patent search can be comprised of the following targets:

  • To establish that an invention or product is novel. During a patent search, the product to be patented is compared with all pre-existing patented and non-patented products or inventions (known as Prior-Art). If the invention to be patented is found to be completely new and has no similarity in any aspect with the existing prior-arts then the invention is known as novel.
  • It will help you know about the technical or any advancement in the related field. This is known as state-of-the-art patent search.
  • To find out if the invention or product to be patented can infringe any existing patents. This is referred to as the infringement search.
  • A validity search is conducted which determines whether your new invention is similar or different to that of a previous patent. If similarity is found, then your invention will be treated as invalid.

The above mentioned targets, though hard to reach is not something which is not accomplishable. Taking the help of techniques can make you reach the goal easily.

Why is Patent Search worth it?

For all those inventors who wish to secure their new invention by patenting it, patent search is a must for them. The entire process of patent application is quite costly and time taking. If you have filed an application for patent with the USPTO before doing a thorough patent search or you being not much sure about the patentability of the invention, then it will lead to loss of time and money if the application gets rejected.

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A General View of Patents

A patent is an exclusive set of legal rights granted to an inventor or patentee by the government or the statutory body. The patent helps the inventor stop a third person from unauthorized making, using and selling of the application. The duration of validity of a patent in USA is for 20 years post submission of application for patent grant. This term of validity differs accordingly in different countries.

The intellectual property law is equally applicable and incorporates patents, trademarks and copyrights. An invention must be novel, non-obvious and commercially exploitable in order to win a patent. The three primary types of patents are as below:

  • Utility Patents– These type of patents are granted to protect an invention or product having a specific function.
  • Design Patents– These type of patents are meant for protection of decorative part of a functional item.
  • Plant Patents– These type of patents are meant for protecting newly discovered patents.

A patent application is a combination of Claims, Drawings and Description of the Invention.

Patent Search Techniques & Tools

A plenty of search tools are available on internet that are absolutely free to use. Let us have a look at some of them below:

  • The first and foremost authentic source to begin with a patent search is the USPTO database. It has an enormous stock of appropriate information on US patents. Apart from a resource it also helps a user with its manual and Help section which guides an applicant as to how to conduct or start a patent search. All recent granted patents are published weekly in the USPTO official gazette.
  • Free Patents Online or FPO is a website which provides an easy approach to already published patents and applications. The articles being hyperlinked make the search task effortless.
  • Google Patent Search database also enlists pre-existing patents and give helpful insights on prior-art. However, it might not contain the most recent patents.
  • The European Patent Office has its own search database named as Espacenet which is again free to use. It has numerous patent documents from all over the world. The most useful feature of this database is that it provides translated version too. Thus it will not be a problem for you to do a patent search even though you are outside US.
  • The Derwent World Patent Index is a famous patent database all throughout the globe. Mostly companies trust this database whenever it comes to patents search.
  • A popular patent search database called Patbase hosts millions of patent documents. However it is not free to use.
  • Generally all patent search sites focus on utility patents. com is a site which is solely dedicated to design patent searches.

Also Read: Patent Search Types: ‘The Major Eight’

Techniques and Tips to be remembered while doing a Patent Search

The following things should be kept in mind while doing a patent search:

Learn about the search tools

The features of each and every database are unique and different. As a searcher you must go ahead and learn about the database in detail by taking help of the Help Section in any database.

Use multiple keywords

Always do a search with maximum possible combination of keywords for your intended invention or product. This is because similar products can have different nomenclatures. So make your brain work harder to do the search with all possible keywords for an invention.

Understand the Classification System

Inventions that are registered with the US Patent System are classified into Classes and Subclasses. Individual inventions have their own numbers. To get a more specific result, an applicant or searcher should search for his/her invention within the target class. This takes time to learn. For both Europe and U.S. there is a classification system but for other countries the systems are different. All those applicants who wish to file a patent application in different countries should learn the patent classification system of those countries in order to do a patent search.

Search probable Patent Owner

For all those applicants who have an idea about their probable competitors can conduct a patent search by the competitor’s name. This will help that applicant or you to get an idea on what the competitors are doing and simultaneously search for concepts that can have similarity to your invention. Further, it will also help you determine any possible patent infringement if applicable.

Take help of Paid Database

Instead of sticking to only the free databases, you should also conduct a patent search on the databases that are of paid version. These databases automatically generate similar keywords thus making the search easier for you. Also, you can compare the results between the searches that were generated by the free database to that of the paid ones. Multiple database searches provide you with intricate search results wherein these search results might be limited to some decades in some databases. A patent if not renewed will be considered to be not valid but an invention is always a prior-art and these results altogether affect the characteristics of your invention to be patented.

Citation Search

If you get to find a patent that has similarity to your invention, you should further dig down to find out what the patent cites. This may eventually lead to discovery of more such similar patents to that of your invention.

Boolean Search

The way you solve problems by Boolean method can be similarly applied while searching for patents. Combine two or more keywords or search phrases with AND, OR or NOT to get varied results.

To organize the Search Results

So you did a lot of patent search and arrived with multiple search results. Things will be at mess if you don’t maintain a proper track of your search results.


A patent search is a complex task and is hard for beginners. However, the success you get after a successful patent search is worth it apart from all the knowledge you gather while going through the process. However, a preliminary patent search must always be followed by a thorough search done by experienced patent professionals. The differences will certainly be striking.

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