Patent Searching 101


The following cliff notes were taken from a one hour course at the Harold Washington branch of the Chicago Public library – 07/11/2013. The full presentation can be downloaded in PDF format below, with permission from the author.

View the full powerpoint presentation for tips on patent searching:
Patent Searching 101


  1. Patents are good for 20 years

  2. Approximately 80,000 patent examiners – most of which work from home. Don’t submit via paper, use electronic means to speed up the process.

  3. Average cost for a patent application is $280

  4. The patent office is very particular about the vocabulary used in your patent application. If you are not using an attorney to file your application, pay special attention to language used in other patent applications

  5. What is Prior Art? Anything that can kill your application. Basically any evidence of use of your information before you tried to patent it.

  6. If a patent exists for your idea in another country, you won’t be able to patent it in the US – A United States patent is only good for the United States

  7. Preliminary Search – Search by keyword only goes back to 1976 – all patents are not digitized yet

  8. Preliminary Search – Browse by classification and you can go back to 1790

  9. Challenges with keyword searching

    • Only goes back to 1976
    • Vague terminology – you won’t find the word “Slinky”, but you will find the word “toy” and the definition of process of use.
    • Multiple meanings of keywords – “mouse” the rodent, “mouse” the computer input device
    • Technical vs. common terms – “rodent extermination device” vs. “mousetrap”

  10. Patent site changes frequently – use the Chicago Public Library intellectual property page for all the latest links: Intellectual Property Resources at Chicago Public Library
  11. Applying for a patent as soon as you have an idea is more important now than it was in the past. It used to be that if you can prove prior use then you can obtain a patent over others. Now, with the America Invents Act, the 1st person to apply takes precedent.
  12. Need Tiff software to view patent images – can download here: Viewing Patent Application Images Online
    • If you use the free version of TIFF plugin, you can print one page at a time. If you use the purchased version, you can print multiple which comes in handy for 50+ page patent designs

  13. You can pay the patent office to conduct searches for you – it typically takes 6 hours and about $600
  14. Patent applications have different pricing based on if you are an individual, a small company or a large company. More economical to be a small business than an individual. More economical to be a large business than a small business.

View the full presentation for tips on patent searching:
Patent Searching 101

Useful Books:
NOLO’s Patents for Beginners
The independent inventor’s handbook
How to Make Patent Drawings
Patent, Copyright & Trademark by Richard Stim.
Patent law essentials : a concise guide
Patent searching made easy : how to do patent searches on the Internet and in the library