Patents 101: How to Do a Patent Search


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Are you interested in patenting your invention but don't know where to start? Patent searching is the first step in the patent application process; it ensures your invention is new and thus eligible for a patent. Learn the 7-Step search process through this presentation offered as part of Milwaukee Public Library's Patent 101 program.

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  • Welcome to Patents 101: How to Do a Patent Search! This program will explain the procedure for conducting a preliminary patent search; a process recommended by the U.S. Patent Office as the first part of preparing your patent application. Obtaining a patent is a long and costly process and you can really benefit by taking advantage of the resources available at the Milwaukee Public Library. Milwaukee Public Library is a Patent and Trademark Resource Center, this means we have a complete collection of historic patents as well as a wide variety of print resources to help with the patent application process. One important thing to note is that as librarians we are unable to conduct patent searches for patrons OR make search suggestions but we can direct you to resources and explain the patent search process. It’s an exciting time for inventors in the U.S. Congress just passed the America Invents Act of 2011 which will result it the biggest change in the U.S. patent system since 1952. The major difference between the new law and the old, is the shift in focus from First to Invent rule to a First Inventor to File, this means patent rights are granted based on the application filing date and not on proving who invented something first. I’ll share some other changes from the America Invents Act with you at different points in the presentation. Look through folder content: Copy of today’s presentation, space to take notes Sample granted patent Process for Obtaining a Utility Patent A form letter requesting suggestions from the USPTO Business card Other flyers with information on offices to contact, scam prevention, help centers
  • For those not familiar with how patents are granted; once applications are received at the USPTO in Alexandria, VA, they are examined by patent examiners who are experts in their fields. The examiners determine whether the patent meets all the set requirements and then either issue or deny the patent application. This process can take up to three years depending on the backlog at USPTO. There is an option for a prioritized examination, that is, for a fee the USPTO will prioritize your patent application. As I mentioned, the U.S. patent granting process will be undergoing changes in the coming years. The current way patents are granted is called First to Invent and includes a 1 year grace period. This means an inventor can publish information about an invention, OR can produce and sell a product and have 1 year to apply for a patent on that item. After the first year is over the inventor can no longer apply for a patent because the item is considered no longer new. This means anyone else can produce the item. If another party submits a patent application within the first year, the initial inventor can request an interference proceeding with the USPTO which will legally determine who is the first inventor. This process is going to change starting in 2013. The America Invents Act moves the U.S. into a First Inventor to File process, which is currently used by Europe and Japan. Beginning in 2013, the first party to file a patent application on their invention will be entitled to a patent regardless of the actual date of invention (as long as all the other requirements are met). So what are the requirement of a patent?
  • New: some aspect of the invention needs to be substantially different and never before patented. There must be new features, or claims, made in the patent application. Unobvious: the invention must not be obvious to someone knowledgeable in the field of your invention. This judgment is made at the patent office by the patent examiners (who, remember, have expert knowledge in the field of your invention. They will know if your idea is just an obvious progressions or a totally new concept which means it clearly has not been done before. This is why the importance of the language you use to describe your invention is important and why the USPTO advises you hire a patent attorney. Useful – useful here meaning operative or able to serve a useful purpose. Fully disclosed – the patent office must have all the information used in creating your invention. You can’t leave out any details.
  • Utility Patents serve a useful or functional purpose. Granted for 20 years, afterwards there is no patent protection.
  • Design patents protect the ornamental appearance of a physical object and are granted for 14 years. Plant patents are for new scientifically created plants and are patented for 20 years. The plant patents are still printed in paper because the color of the plant can be what is its unique and new feature.
  • It’s important to note one of the changes coming from the America Invents Act’s shift to First Inventor to File rule. Remember you have 1 year to file a patent application once you make your invention public. If you wait more than 1 year you cannot obtain a patent. You also will not be able to obtain a patent if another (independent) inventor publishes information describing the invention/makes the invention public in some way before you file your patent application, even if it’s within the one year period. This change goes into effect in 2013.
  • A comprehensive patent search is going to save you time and money. In 2010, over 460,000 patent applications were received by the U.S. Patent Office. Typically only 60% of those get approved. Keep in mind there is no refund for application fees.
  • The recommended way to conduct your patent search is using the U.S. Patent Classification system. There are currently 450 classes and 150,000 subclasses in the U.S. Patent Classification system. Think of classes and subclasses as the way the USPTO organizes inventions into categories. There is an online index to navigate the classes/subclasses.
  • Before we begin our search, lets look at a sample granted patent so you have an idea what exactly we are searching. Every number you see in parentheses is used for a specific field. For example, field 54 will always have the patent title , no matter what country the patent was issued in or the language. Go through: Inventors, U.S. Classification (52) and Field of Classification (58). On the bottom right of the first page is listed the number of claims made by the applicant along with an abstract. The claims form the basis of the patent grant. The last page of the patent provides the full claims made by the applicant in legal language.
  • Lets start our example patent search. I want to patent an invention for pets that I think dog owners will love. It’s a dog harness that carries water and has a water dispenser attached to the vest.
  • Step 1: Describe your invention! Ask yourself these questions and keep detailed notes. You will be using these words or terms in Step 2. Using a dictionary and thesaurus is very helpful.
  • The link on the slide takes you directly to the index. The next three slides show how to get to the index from homepage ( [Show process from USPTO homepage]
  • You’ll want to use the HTML version of the index since it’s easier to read and doesn’t require you to download any pdfs. The index lists common and technical terms and links them to classifications. Click on the letter to search. You’ll want to try the words you wrote down during Step 1. I’m going to start with letter A for Animal, but I may also want to try D for Dog.
  • Once I find ANIMAL, I’m going to scroll until I find the next words that best fits my invention. In this case it’s WATERING DEVICES. The number listed is the class/subclass to all inventions falling into “Animal – Watering Devices” category.
  • Step 3 moves us from the INDEX into the Class Schedule. The Class Schedule is where we can view the official definition of a class/subclass and access patents and patent applications. To get to the Class Schedules CLICK on the class/subclass number in the INDEX.
  • Once you are in the Class Schedules in the Manual of Classification online, you can read the classification definitions by clicking on the subclass number or title. Read the definitions carefully to determine if they fit your invention; if it does not accurately describe your invention then you’ll have to explore different classes/subclasses. In addition to the definition there is a SEE section that will point to relating classes and subclasses.
  • Now that I’m confident my invention fits the description of class/subclass 119/72 I can search for issued patents and patent applications. USPTO has two patent publication databases to search: PatFT and AppFT.
  • Click on and open the titles of patents found in your search and compare them with your invention.
  • Review your search results closely.
  • Pay special attention to the CLAIMS section of the patent publication. Remember from earlier that claims are words that describe the invention in legal language and form the basis on which the patent was granted. Be sure to ask yourself whether any of the patents you found in your search disclose an invention with claims similar to your invention? Always remember a patent cannot be granted if the invention is not new.
  • The final step of the search process is to search the references cited within the patents that you’ve opened in viewed. The references show the search history of other established patents that were viewed to determine the newness or novelty of the patent that was granted.
  • This program only covers a small portion of the much larger patent application process. It is strongly recommended you hire a patent attorney as it may provide the best chance to obtain a patent.
  • It can take anywhere from 12-48 months for your patent to reach an examiner. If there are questions about your patent an examiner will contact you. Milwaukee Public Library is a Patent and Trademark Resource Center (PTRC) and has a collection of books to help in the patent process. [Bring books to show]
  • Patents 101: How to Do a Patent Search

    1. 1. Patents 101: How to Do a Patent Search Milwaukee Public Library Central Library Business and Technology Department
    2. 2. What is a Patent? <ul><li>A patent is... </li></ul><ul><li>a property right granted by the Government of the United States of America to an inventor, </li></ul><ul><li>“ to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States,” </li></ul><ul><li>for a limited time, </li></ul><ul><li>in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted. </li></ul>
    3. 3. Requirements for a Patent <ul><li>New </li></ul><ul><li>Useful </li></ul><ul><li>Unobvious </li></ul><ul><li>Fully disclosed </li></ul>
    4. 4. 3 Types of Patents <ul><li>Utility Patents – granted for a useful process or method, machine, manufactured article or composition of matter. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Term: 20 years from filing date </li></ul></ul>
    5. 5. 3 Types of Patents <ul><li>Design Patents – granted for new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture: the appearance is protected. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Term: 14 years from the date the patent is granted </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Plant Patents – granted for a new, asexually reproduced plant. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Term: 20 years from filing date </li></ul></ul>
    6. 6. What CANNOT be Patented? <ul><li>Inventions which are NOT NEW </li></ul><ul><li>Inventions which are OBVIOUS variations of known technology (obvious to one familiar with technology) </li></ul><ul><li>ABSTRACT ideas </li></ul>
    7. 7. What Cannot Be Patented? Changes from the Patent Reform Act (S.23) <ul><li>Inventions MADE PUBLIC more than one year prior to patent application filing date OR made public by other independent inventor before the first inventor files an application. </li></ul>
    8. 8. Utility Patent Fees for Small Entities (as of 10/1/11) <ul><li>Initial Filing Fee: $95 (electronic) / $190 (paper) </li></ul><ul><li>Search Fee: $310 </li></ul><ul><li>Examination Fee: $125 </li></ul><ul><li>Issue Fee: $870 </li></ul><ul><li>Maintenance Fees: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>3.5 years: $565 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>7.5 years: $1425 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>11.5 years: $2365 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Prioritized Examination (opt.): $2400 </li></ul><ul><li>* Provisional Patent Application Filing Fee: $ 125 * </li></ul>
    9. 9. Process for Obtaining a Utility Patent
    10. 10. Why Are Patent Searches Necessary? <ul><li>To make sure your idea is new , to search for prior art </li></ul><ul><li>To increase awareness of the product field </li></ul><ul><li>To prepare for consulting an attorney </li></ul><ul><li>To reduce patent attorney/agent fees </li></ul><ul><li>To prepare for the application process </li></ul>
    11. 11. Ways to Search for Patents on USPTO Databases <ul><li>By Patent Number or Publication Number </li></ul><ul><li>By Keyword (full text or selected fields) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Some problems: only from 1976 forward; inconsistent terminology; obsolete names; synonyms (e.g. rodent extermination device); British spellings; spelling errors </li></ul></ul><ul><li>By U.S. Patent Classification </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Recommended ; Classification systems categorizes things based on characteristics and relationships </li></ul></ul>
    12. 12. U.S. Patent Classification <ul><li>There are currently 450 classes and 150,000 subclasses in the U.S. Patent Classification System (USPC). </li></ul><ul><li>Use the online index to navigate USPC </li></ul>
    13. 13. 7 Step Preliminary Patent Search Overview <ul><li>USPTO has developed a 7 Step Patent Search Strategy to increase the likelihood a novice searcher will do a thorough job of a preliminary patent search. </li></ul><ul><li>Remember: all it takes is one patent to refute the “novelty” of one’s invention. </li></ul>
    14. 14. A Sample Granted Patent
    15. 15. Patent Search Example <ul><li>A dog harness that carries a water pouch and has an attached water dispenser . </li></ul>
    16. 16. Step 1: Description of Invention <ul><li>What does it do? </li></ul><ul><li>Essential function of the invention </li></ul><ul><li>What is the end result? </li></ul><ul><li>Essential effect or basic product resulting from the invention </li></ul><ul><li>What is it made out of? </li></ul><ul><li>Physical structure of the invention </li></ul><ul><li>What is it used for? </li></ul><ul><li>Intended use for the invention </li></ul>
    17. 17. Step 1: Description of Example, cont. <ul><li>What does it do? </li></ul><ul><li>An animal vest/harness that carries water and dispenses water for the animal </li></ul><ul><li>What is the end result? </li></ul><ul><li>Water is stored in the vest/harness and is expelled through a connected dispenser </li></ul><ul><li>What is it made of? </li></ul><ul><li>Polyester, plastic tubing, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>What is it used for? </li></ul><ul><li>Used to spray water into dog’s (or other animal’s) mouth, or to spray dog’s paws. </li></ul>
    18. 18. Step 1: Description of Example, cont. <ul><li>Consider Synonyms </li></ul><ul><li>Dog, pet, animal, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Vest, harness, pouch, dispenser etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Liquid, water, etc. </li></ul>
    19. 19. Step 2: Determine Classification Using the Index to U.S. Patent Classification <ul><li>Use the Index to find potential class(es) and subclass(es). </li></ul><ul><li>Look up each term that describes the invention, e.g. function, composition, etc. </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
    20. 20. To Access the Patent Index
    21. 21. To Access the Patent Index
    22. 22. To Access the Patent Index
    23. 23. Step 2 Continued: Determine Classification Use the HTML Index and click on “A” for animal. Is it also under “D” for dog?
    24. 24. Step 2 Continued: Determine Classification A - Animal W - Watering devices
    25. 25. Step 3: Class Schedule in Manual Of Classification Online <ul><li>Click on the Class/Subclass number in the Index to U.S. Patent Classification – it will bring you immediately into the Class Schedule for your invention at the subclass level. </li></ul><ul><li>+ Indicates the subclass is further broken down </li></ul><ul><li>119/72+ </li></ul><ul><li>224/148.2 </li></ul>
    26. 26. Step 4: Classification Definitions <ul><li>Click on subclass number or title to view and read the definition. Also includes a “SEE” section that will point to additional classes and subclasses to search. Dots show subclass relationships. </li></ul>
    27. 27. Step 5: Search U.S. Patents & Published Patent Applications <ul><li>You have the class/subclass, now search! </li></ul><ul><li>USPTO has two searchable patent publication databases: </li></ul><ul><li>PatFT (Patents Full-Text ) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Patents back to 1976 accessible by keyword searching and class/subclass </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>All U.S. patents back to 1790 by class/subclass or patent number. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>AppFT (Published Patent Applications Full-Text) </li></ul>
    28. 28. <ul><li>Clicking on the P button next to subclass 72 will run the search for all patents within that class/subclass (119/72) in the PatFT database. </li></ul><ul><li>Clicking on the A button will run the search for all published patent applications within that class/subclass in the AppFT database. </li></ul>Step 5: Search Each Database Separately Using A & P Buttons
    29. 29. PatFT Search Results
    30. 30. Step 5: Don’t Forget to Search AppFT
    31. 31. Step 6: Review Your Search Results <ul><li>Front Page; drawing sheets </li></ul><ul><li>Specification </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Background of the invention </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Summary of the invention </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Detailed description of the invention </li></ul></ul>
    32. 32. Step 6: Review Your Search Results: CLAIMS <ul><li>Legal boundaries of intellectual property </li></ul><ul><li>Located at the end of the patent document </li></ul>
    33. 33. Step 7: Review Reference Cited Referenced By: links patents that cite the displayed patent. References Cited: shows the other established patents viewed by examiners to determine the newness or novelty of the patent that was granted.
    34. 34. Step 7: Current U.S. Classification & Field of Classification Search <ul><li>The field of search can provide valuable clues to other classifications that the patent examiner searched </li></ul>
    35. 35. 7 Step Patent Search Review <ul><li>Brainstorm keywords to describe the invention. </li></ul><ul><li>Use these keywords to find initial class/subclass in the Index to the U.S. Patent Classification . </li></ul><ul><li>Verify the relevancy of class/subclasses using the Classification Schedule . </li></ul><ul><li>Confirm scope of subclass in Classification Definitions. </li></ul><ul><li>Access patent documents and published patent applications using classification in PatFT & AppFT . </li></ul><ul><li>Review the claims, specifications , and drawings of documents retrieved. </li></ul><ul><li>Retrieve and review cited references and “Field of Classification Search” in documents retrieved . </li></ul>
    36. 36. Patent Attorney or Agents <ul><li>USPTO recommends hiring an attorney or agent for assistance in preparing a patent. Patent preparation in legal language is a challenge. </li></ul><ul><li>Registered attorneys and agents are listed on the website: </li></ul><ul><li>https:// </li></ul>
    37. 37. Patents 101: Final Notes <ul><li>Document your searches! Write down what classifications you’ve searched, the databases you used, keep a list of patents and applications reviewed. </li></ul><ul><li>Use the U.S. Patent Classification Suggestion form (included in packet) </li></ul><ul><li>Explore the USPTO website </li></ul><ul><li>Milwaukee Public Library has numerous books to help in the patent process. </li></ul>
    38. 38. Contacts <ul><li>USPTO Contact Center: </li></ul><ul><li>(800) PTO-9199 </li></ul><ul><li>Patent Electronic Business Center: (866) 217-9197 </li></ul><ul><li>Milwaukee Public Library Business and Technology: (414) 286-3051 </li></ul>