As a patent attorney, I have been asked by many founders on tips to perform informal searches for prior art. Alongside the USPTO search engine, you can use other search engines like espacenet, which is described below. A patent lawyer or attorney can advise you on the procedure. Patents granted in the United States are granted by the US trademark and patent office, or the United States patent office and trademark office. This office also reviews trademark applications.

Are you interested in knowing the prior art? Read on!

The purpose of a prior art search is to identify and locate existing prior art that may be relevant to a patent application. Prior art refers to any information that has been made available to the public in any form before the date of the patent application, such as patents, published articles, and other written or oral disclosures. The search is typically conducted to determine if an invention is novel and non-obvious, which are requirements for a patent to be granted.

Prior art search is an important step in the patent application process, as it helps to ensure that the patent office is aware of any existing prior art that may be relevant to the patent application, and that the patent application fully and completely describes the invention. It also can be used by the patent office to make a determination as to whether the invention is patentable. Additionally, prior art search can be useful for identifying potential competitors and assessing the strength of their patent portfolios.

The Patent Public Search tool is a new web-based patent search application that will replace internal legacy search tools PubEast and PubWest and external legacy search tools PatFT and AppFT. Patent Public Search has two user selectable modern interfaces that provide enhanced access to prior art. The new, powerful, and flexible capabilities of the application will improve the overall patent searching process.

If you are new to patent searches, or want to use the functionality that was available in the USPTO’s PatFT/AppFT, select ‘Basic Search’ to look for patents by keywords or common fields, such as inventor or publication number. Select ‘Advanced Search’ to use full query options as well as to further filter a patent search by database or organize documents through tagging. The USPTO provides a Patent Full-Text and Image Database (PatFT) for searching issued patents and published patent applications. The Patent Full-Text and Image Database is a searchable database that allows you to search for patents issued from 1976 to present. The database contains full-text and images of patents issued by the USPTO.

Here are the steps to search the USPTO Patent Public Search Facility:

  1. Go to the USPTO website ( and click on the “Search” tab.
  2. Select “Patent Full-Text and Image Database (PatFT)” from the drop-down menu.
  3. Enter your search terms in the appropriate fields. You can search by patent number, patent title, inventor’s name, and other criteria.
  4. Click on the “Search” button to start your search.
  5. The search results will be displayed in a list format, with the most relevant results appearing first.
  6. Click on the patent number to view the full-text and images of the patent.
  7. You can also use the advanced search option to narrow your search by selecting different fields to search, by date, by classification, and other criteria.
  8. You can also use the option to save or download the search results in a CSV or XML format.

It is important to note that the USPTO database is a large and complex system and it may take some time to become proficient in using it. It’s a good idea to experiment with different search strategies, and to consult the USPTO’s help and tutorials for guidance on how to use the database effectively.

1. Think of terms that describe your invention according to its function, composition, or use.

Start by writing down a concise, precise description of your invention. Avoid using generic terms such as “device”, “process,” or “system”. Consider synonyms for the terms you initially chose. Next, take note of significant technical terms, as well as keywords.

Use the questions below to help you determine the keywords or concepts.

  • What is the goal of the invention Is it a utilitarian device or an ornamental design?
  • Invention is a method to come up with something or to perform a function? Or is it a thing or process?
  • What is the nature and purpose of the invention? What is the physical composition of the invention?
  • What’s the objective of the invention?
  • What are the terms in the technical field and keywords that define the nature of an invention? To find the right terms, refer to an online dictionary of technical terms.

2. Use these terms to find relevant Cooperative Patent Classifications at the Classification Text Search Tool. If you’re not able to find the right classification to describe your invention, go through the Schemas of classes (class schedules). Consider substituting the words you’re using for describing your invention, if you don’t find any results in your Classification Text Search with synonyms similar to the words you used in step 1.

3. Examine 3. Go over the CPC Classification Definition to verify the validity of the CPC classification that you have found. If the selected classification title includes a blue square with a “D” to its left, clicking on the link will lead you to a CPC classification’s description. CPC classification definitions will help determine the relevant classification’s scope which is why you can be certain to pick the most relevant. In addition they can provide research tips and other suggestions that could be useful to further study.

4. The Patents Full-Text Database and the Image Database allow you to search for patent documents that have the CPC classification. By focusing on the abstracts and representative drawings you can narrow your search for the most relevant patent publications.

5. Take advantage of this list of most pertinent patent documents to look at each one thoroughly for similarities to your invention. Be sure to read the claims and specification. Contact the applicant as well as the patent examiner for additional patents.

6. Search for patent applications that have been published using the CPC classification you chose in Step 3 of the Applications Full-Text and Image Database. It is possible to use the same method of search as in Step 4. You can narrow your results down to the most relevant patent applications by looking at the abstract and illustrations on every page. Next, carefully examine the published patent applications and pay particular attention to the claims as well as additional drawings.

7. You can look up additional US patent publications using keyword searching in the AppFT and PatFT databases, as well as classification searching of patents not from the United States in the following table. Additionally, you can make use of search engines on the internet to search non-patent patent disclosures in literature about inventions. Examples:

  • Add keywords to your search. Keyword searches may turn up documents that are not well-categorized or have missed classifications during Step 2. For example, US patent examiners often supplement their classification searches with keyword searches. Think about the use of technical engineering terminology rather than everyday words.
  • Search for foreign patents using the CPC classification. Then, re-run the search using international patent office search engines such as Espacenet, the European Patent Office’s worldwide patent publication database of over 130 million patent publications. Other national databases include:
  • Search non-patent literature. Inventions can be made public in many non-patent publications. It is recommended that you search journals, books, websites, technical catalogs, conference proceedings, and other print and electronic publications.

When reviewing the results of a patent search, it is important to carefully read and analyze each patent or published patent application that is relevant to your search criteria. Here are some steps to review the results of your patent search:

  1. Begin by reviewing the title and abstract of each patent or published patent application. These will provide a general overview of the invention and its claims.
  2. Next, review the claims section of each patent or published patent application. This section will provide a detailed description of the invention and the specific elements that are claimed as novel and non-obvious.
  3. Compare the claims of each patent or published patent application to your own invention to determine if there is any overlap.
  4. Review the drawings and figures of each patent or published patent application to get a visual understanding of the invention.
  5. Read the specification of each patent or published patent application. This section provides a detailed description of the invention and its background.
  6. Take note of any citations to other patents or publications that are listed in the patent or published patent application. These citations can be used as a starting point for further research.
  7. Finally, make note of the patent number, issue date and expiration date of each patent or published patent application, as well as the inventor and assignee names.

It’s important to keep in mind that patents and published patent applications can be complex and technical documents, so it may be helpful to consult with a patent attorney or agent who can help you interpret the results of your search and advise you on any next steps.

To review your search, you can hire a registered patent attorney to assist. A preliminary search will help one better prepare to talk about their invention and other related inventions with a professional patent attorney. In addition, the attorney will not spend too much time or money on patenting basics.