Patent Searching

Patent searching intimidates me. I don’t do enough to feel like I’ve learned the system, and there’s such a specific vocabulary and classification system, that it can be confusing. To add to the confusion, you can do searches for patents from a number of sites, both free and subscription based. However, patent applications can have a lot of useful information, including references and illustrations.

Some places to search for patents:

  • free government site: U. S. Patent and Trademark Office search for issued US patents and published applications. You can search the full-text of the patents issued from 1976 – present. For earlier patents (1790-1975), you’ll need to use the patent number or classification. You can download the full patent for any of the years, those from 1975 and prior are tiff images. Note that published applications are those that have not yet been granted – be aware that the patent application may change in scope before the patent is issued. Check out their guides page for help based on your search needs.
  • free: Google Patents allows keyword searching on all US patents (but not patent applications).  When you find a patent, Google creates an about page, giving you a quick glance at the relevant parts.  Note that it takes a few months for new patents to show up in Google’s search, there may also be some errors in the character recognition of older patents.   The search help gives a good explanation of how it works.
  • free: CAMBIA Patent Lens search for US, European and Australian patents. This site was created to increase patent transparency and provide knowledge of the patent world. Take a look at their help page for search help.
  • subscription (Carleton username/password required for access): LexisNexis click on Legal Research, and then Patents.
  • subscription (Carleton username/password required for access): SciFinder Scholar for chemical patents.  When searching, filter the document type to Patent.  There are a number of specialized searches for chemical structures.  You will need to have the SciFinder Scholar client installed on your computer.

2 thoughts on “Patent Searching

  1. As a librarian, If you are providing data access services, I would recommend subscribe to a search engine such as Delphion and learn its features well.

    Patent searching is an aquired art. One needs an understanding of the invention and a good vocabulary. One can learn it. I’ve tought a couple of trainees and they are not bad.

    Occasionally I search via the classification system, but generally do boolean searches and cast a wide net, then cross he search with other search terms, until I have a manageable results set. Then I scan the titles and abstracts downloading those of interest.

    The problem is when you can’t find what you are looking for. Sometimes I knock out a patent in minutes, but sometimes I spend a day on it.

    There are a number of specialist patent searching organizations that you might consider subcontracting to.

  2. Thanks Michael. I really do very little patent searching – maybe a couple of times each year, and usually in the context of helping a physics or computer science major find information for their senior thesis. So I feel like I’m always relearning everything each time. I’m glad to know others sometimes end up spending a long time on a search.

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