Patents Search Plan

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Making a Plan

You, the inventor or researcher, will be responsible for conducting your own search. The success of your search will depend heavily on your familiarity with the technological subject area of the invention.  We recommend that you take the three preliminary steps below to insure the best and most complete search as possible.


Working Description

Prepare a working description of your invention for your own reference. This is for you to use while conducting your search. Librarians and staff will not need to see this information. You may wish to include your drawings to illustrate the invention and any data you may have gathered testing your invention.

As you write your description, include the following information:

  • Purpose: What does the invention do?
  • Application: What is it used for?
  • Structure: What is the invention made of and what are its parts?
  • Function: How does it work?
  • Consumers: Who might benefit from using it.


Non-Patent Information Sources

Investigate non-patent information sources relating to your invention to (1) develop a familiarity with other existing things that may have an impact on your ability to get a patent, and (2) become aware of the variety of words and phrases used to describe similar items and technology. Searching general sources may yield information useful in a number of ways to your specific patent search. Check with your local library about the availability of sources such as these:

  • General encyclopedias.
  • Technical or scientific encyclopedias.
  • Magazine and journal articles (often available on-line from the Penn State University Libraries).
  • Technical reports and working papers.
  • Trade catalogs where you might find similar items for sale.
  • Thomas Register.
  • Internet (try several search engines, none cover the entire Internet by themselves).

Checking on other products' patent numbers can also provide valuable information when doing your own search. Patent numbers can be found:

  • On manufactured items and their packaging.
  • In scientific and technical literature (scientific journals, working papers, trade journals).
  • Scifinder Scholar and other chemistry and pharmaceutical databases.


Research the Marketplace

The more you know about existing devices and technology that relate to your invention, the more prepared you will be to conduct your preliminary search. Having this sort of information will assist you in deciding on a course of action for your potential patent. Keep these hints in mind as you begin your research:

  • Try to determine where your device or technology will be used.
  • What existing items will your invention replace?
  • What consumers would buy your invention? Name the consumer groups, professions, industries, etc. that might want or need your invention.
  • Where do consumers generally purchase equipment or supplies like what you have invented? Would this be a potential marketing outlet for your invention?