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Types of Patent Searching

It is highly recommended that any search be performed either by an intellectual property attorney or a professional search firm that specializes in patentability searches.

Patent searching can be of the following types, depending on the purpose of the search:

  • State of the Art Search - This type of search gives the searcher a general overview of the current state of the art in a given field. This type of search includes patents, technical journals, trade publications, academic dissertations and other relevant publications.
  • Preliminary Patentability Search - This type of search determines whether or not an invention is new so as to qualify for patent protection.
  • Right to Use Search - This type of search determines whether or not a proposed product or process can be used or marketed without infringing issued patents.
  • Validity Search - This type of search discovers publications, and other relevant references, that will invalidate a patent or at least limit the scope of the claims appearing in the patent. This type of search is typically done to invalidate a patent that is at issue during patent litigation.
  • U.S. Patent & Trademark Office Official Gazette - Allows searcher to browse through issued patents for the week.
  • Assignee Search - This type of search determines current ownership of a patent.

Free Patent Searching Databases
As stated above, among other requirements, an invention must be new and nonobvious to receive patent protection. However, how does one determine whether or not the invention is new and nonobvious? One does this by performing a "patentability search." The search can be performed either by an intellectual property attorney or a professional search firm that specializes in patentability searches. Also, there are many patent databases the inventor or owner of the patent can access on the Internet for free.

Among these databases are the following:

However, it should be remembered that information in these databases may not be current. For example, patents commonly change ownership as they are re-assigned when corporations merge, change, or dissolve. Some databases only record the first assignment of ownership appearing on the face of the patent when the patent was issued, and do not record changes in ownership from that date. Therefore, one should keep these limitations in mind when performing or authorizing patentability searches.

For details and further reading regarding patent searching, please visit our Library Reading Room.

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