How to Do a Patent Search in 5 Steps: What You Need to Know

December 20th, 2019 ‧ 4 min read

Table of contents

What Is a Patent Search?

A patent search or patentability search is the process of evaluating the patentability of your invention. Patent applications will be rejected by any authoritative patent offices you apply to (e.g., USPTO, JPO, CNIPA, etc.) if a granted patent for the same invention already exists. Therefore, it’s certainly worth verifying the originality of your invention before you invest too much time and money into it.
Conducting a patent search on your own is not that difficult; in fact, many inventors and entrepreneurs conduct their own patent search to save money. However, if you have the budget for it, seeking professional assistance or using patent search software is always an excellent option for a more detailed search result.

Why Do You Need to Do a Patent Search?

A patent is legal protection to ensure that your inventions aren’t used or monetized without your permission. Conducting a patent search is one of the best ways to protect yourself from patent infringement. Other than the obvious advantages, there are plenty of benefits to performing a patent search.

  • Avoid costly investment decisions

Once you understand the patentability of your invention, you”ll be in a better position to make further decisions to avoid unnecessary investments.

  • Familiarize yourself with prior art

Familiarizing yourself with prior art allows you understand the patentability of your invention and makes it easier for you to draft unique claims and descriptions for it.

  • Improve your patent application or design around

By becoming more knowledgeable and familiar with the literature available for the field of the invention, inventors can benefit from using this knowledge to strengthen their patent application or develop a design around strategy.

How to Do a Patent Search Yourself

Here are the steps you should take to do a patent search through the USPTO (US patent search) or other online patent search tools (global patent search):

1. Keyword brainstorm
You can begin your patent search by choosing a relevant keyword if the patent search tool you are using offers more advanced search features such as semantic search. Such features may help to identify your search intent and can provide you with the most accurate search results.

2. Find the relevant CPC classification using your keyword
Once you find out the CPC classification that is most relevant to your invention, you can dig deeper and search for the patent documents that are similar to your invention.

(Image courtesy of Patentcloud-Patent Search)

3. Search through the patent documents of both PatFT (issued patents) and AppFT (published patent applications) with the most relevant CPC classification that you previously identified.

If you conduct a US patent search using the USPTO, you will need to go through all of the patent documents in two databases: The Published Patent Applications Database and The Complete Patent Documents Database. This will help you to identify the patent documents that are most similar to your invention.
When utilizing other online patent search tools to conduct a global patent search, you will find that many of them will provide you with both the related issued patents and the published patent applications within one search. With advanced filters, you can quickly narrow down your search scope for more specific results.

(Image courtesy of Patentcloud-Patent Search)

4. Dig deeper for more related patents by using the citations of the prior art of the most relevant patents from your search.

Once you have found the most similar patent applications and issued patents, you can then expand your search scope by looking into their forward and backward citations. Looking through the citations and the prior art layer by layer can help you to get the most comprehensive results.
Some online search tools offer search features that can eliminate the effort required to go through the citations layer by layer. Utilizing such tools and algorithms may prove to be a more efficient and beginner-friendly way to do a patent search.

(Image courtesy of Patentcloud-Patent Search)

5. Repeat the process to dig deeper and broaden your search scope.

To broaden your search scope, looking into the non-US patents and non-patent literature in other authoritative patent offices is important. Looking into a patent’s family is also a great way to gain more insights or related information from other countries.

(Image courtesy of Patentcloud-Patent Search)
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