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Best Tools for a Patent Search

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The technology age has certainly changed the way that patent searches are done. Before computers, individuals searching patents were forced to search through indexed patent applications as physical offices managed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The process for searching was grueling. Individuals would search for the patent directory by inventor, classification, and description. They would then have to physically locate the patent application (either on microfiche or a physical copy).

Computers greatly changed the process when granted patents and patent applications could be uploaded into electronic file systems. These systems had to be manually updated across all patent offices. Then came the Internet. Internet connectivity allowed the patent offices to have up-to-date patent repositories across all of its offices. Individuals could then search in these repositories through various forms of search criteria.

Since the inception of the internet-based, patent repository with the USPTO, the patent search process has taken several major steps forward. Now anyone can conduct a thorough patent search of the USPTO patent database from anywhere with a computer and Internet connection. The search algorithms available on the database all for more thorough, efficient, and timely patent searchers.

The next wave of advancement has come from third-party service providers. Numerous organizations or companies have created tools to help with the patent search process. These tools come in the form of databases with unique search features or functionality.

Below we discuss some of the best tools for conducting a patent search.


Google Patent Search Database

The Google search engine has revolutionized how people use the Internet. Their search algorithms are widely recognized as the most thorough and accurate when making open search queries on the world-wide web. The primary benefits of Google is that the search functions in the database are:

User-Friendly – The interface is very user friendly for novice patent searchers.
Fast – A query produces extensive search results in seconds.
Easily shareable results – The search results can be easily forwarded to others involved or interested in the patent search process.
Legal Events – The search provides a sequenced display of legal events affecting the patent status.

Presentation of information – The retrieval system displays results in a very user-friendly, easy-to-review format.

Google patent offers a “simple search” feature and an “advanced search” feature.

The simple search functions allows for keyword searches for relevant technology, or it allows for direct search of publication numbers. It also allows you to employ boolean operators in your keyword searches. This is absolutely necessary when stringing together keywords for broad search. Further, the search can be narrowed by searches in the claims, title, and abstract sections of the indexed patent documents. It also allows for search by relevant classification codes. Lastly, it provides access to legal events affecting the status of the patent application.

The advanced search function provides numerous additional search criteria that is not provided in the simple search, such as: inventor, assignee of patent rights, patent office (United States, Europe, Japan, China, South Korea, WIPO, Russia, Germany, The United Kingdom, Canada, France, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, and The Netherlands), language, filing status, patent type, citing patent. It allows for identification of keywords in the description of the patent publication.

The downsides to Google patents is that it does not offer a multiple word highly function. The information contained needs to be confirmed on the home country database — as Google does not accept responsibility for the information presented. Lastly, the Google database is not always as up-to-date on recent patent filings as paid search databases.



Patentscope is a free database put out by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Patentscope contains patent applications from regional and national patent collections from all major patent-filing countries. It also includes International Patent Applications filed under the PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty).

The search interface is available in 9 languages.

There is a mobile interface for searches on smart devices.

PatentScope also allow you to browse recently filed applications. You can browse by week filed and by sequence listing. There is also a function that allows you to verify the legal status of the patent.


The USPTO Database

The USPTO provides a database of full texts of patents filed after 1976 and PDF format for pre-1976 filings. The system is known as the The USPTO searches US patent grants and applications. The database allows a quick search that allows keyword search across all fields and criteria. You can focus the search by class or sub-class, pursuant to the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) system. The USPTO has a “Public Pair” function that allows searchers to view the statues of patent pending applications. You will be able to read the comments from the USPTO examiner, her objectives, and how the inventor has responded to those objections to the application. This will be particularly helpful if your invention is similar and nature and you need to understand how the application will be examined by the USPTO. Another useful feature offers by the USPTO is a browser plugin for FireFox that allows you view PDF files within the browser. It also provides access to patent assignments and several other useful features.


Espace European Database

The best source for searching European and international patent applications is Espace, located at http://ep.espacenet.com/. Espace also includes most international applications from other countries. Espace may be the most effective and comprehensive patent tool for searching international patent applications. It will allow you to search patent publications, machine translate patent documents (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean to English), track emerging technologies, and identify what competitors are developing.

Espace provides a powerful classification search tool to retrieve publications in a particular technical area. As previously discussed, searching within specific classifications can greatly enhance your search results. Espace provides a “Global Dossier”, which bring together documents when the same documents have been filed in multiple patent offices. It provides access to the correspondence (“File Wrapper”) between applicants/attorneys and the offices of filing (Canada, China, Europe, Korea, Japan, US, PCT applications, etc).

Lastly, Espace has a common citation document (CCD) tool that provides a single point of acres to citation data for the patent applications in the largest five IP offices. Basically, it consolidates the prior art cited by the participating offices and shows those search results on a single page.

Paid Databases

There are a number of paid databases that provide the same services available in Google, Espace, and PatentScope. For patent professionals, these are the go-to databases for performing patent searches. They are comprehensive and provide numerous advanced search functions. The downside is that access to these databases are incredibly expensive. The most well-known paid databases are Patbase, Orbit, and Derwent.


LawTrades Knows Patent Searches

The above tools can greatly facilitate your patent search process. There are, however, numerous advantages to employing the services of a professional when conducting a patent search. A legal professional will discuss with you the patent search results and provide you a patentability opinion. If you are considering filing for patent protection or undertaking a patent search, reach out to the intellectual property attorneys at LawTrades. They are experts in all matters of intellectual property law, including patent searches and filing. They can provide with competent legal advice and provide you with the services necessary to maximize your rights in your invention.