Where to Search for Prior Art

By: Mark R. Malek

The first article I posted about this series was directed to the duty to disclose prior art to the Patent Office during the patent prosecution process.  The next article tried to give some information about what constituted prior art.  Now that we know what prior art is, let’s go over some good places to do some prior art searching.

During a typical consultation when an inventor calls our firm to get some information on what it takes to file a patent application, I almost immediately pull up one of several resources to do a bit of patent searching.  One of the first sites I go to is Google Patents.  I like this site because it is just like a typical Google search.  I just type in some key words, and the Google Patents search engine brings me right to a few of the most relevant U.S. Patents and Published Patent Applications.  The really nice thing about this search is that you can see the full text of the U.S. Patent or Published Patent Application.  You can even download the patent if you so wish.

Another great site I use to search is Free Patents Online.  The reason I love this site is that it gives you many options to focus your search.  For example, if you wanted to see some of the patents that our firm has written, then you just type in AGT/” Widerman & Malek” and click search.  You can narrow your search based on any number of factors.  Another great thing about this site is that it is not limited to U.S. Patent Publications.  You can also search foreign patent publications as well.  As you learned in my last article, it is important to not limit your search to United States Publications.  Prior art can come from anywhere.

Yet another great site that I am somewhat new to, but that I have started to use is Sumo Brain.  This is another great place to do some patent searching, and also offers advanced searching options.  I also like that Sumo Brain allows you to search based on certain topics.  For example, if you wanted to search something in the field of textiles, you can easily click on “fabrics” under the textiles tab.

One real big benefit over these sites, as compared to the search features on the United States Patent Office site, is that they are so easy to use and easily allow for the patents to be downloaded to a PDF.  There are a lot of other free search engines out there, so I recommend looking around and finding one that suits you.

No search is complete, however, until you hunt around the internet for your invention.  Perhaps someone has already come up with your invention, but never filed a patent application about it.  Maybe they just started selling it on their own site, or maybe they tried to reduce it to practice, i.e., build it, but couldn’t quite get it to work, and put some information up looking for help on how to get it to work.  Either way, it counts as prior art, so be sure to include stuff like that in any search you do.

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