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Patent Number Searching

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Although patent numbers are often displayed in products or packaging, patent searchers will also encounter patent numbers regularly as they investigate "non-patent" literature, such as scientific and technical reports. Patent numbers are also commonly available and accessible when gathering information about products available for sale or use in industry.

What is a Patent?

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A patent is an official document securing to an inventor for a term of years the exclusive right to make, use, or sell an invention. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office grants, on behalf of the Federal government, utility patents, design patents and plant patents. No other agency or jurisdiction can grant patents in the United States.

A patent is similar to a real estate title in two ways. First, it confers ownership of the invention. Second, it describes the invention in very precise terms. These terms are referred to as "claims".

Evaluating Information (or making a sandwich)

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Evaluating Information (or making a sandwich)

One of the most basic concepts in doing good research is evaluating the information you plan to use. This is something you likely do already in some form or another, though maybe you don’t think about.

This tutorial, through a series of videos, will provide a framework for thinking critically about all the information you encounter… or making yourself a nice lunch. Hopefully both.

Digging Deeper

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Once you have your topic narrowed down, the wide world of information is before you. The resources showcased below are your portal to some of the most reliable and in-depth information around.



Choose Your Search

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The search methods detailed in this tutorial are based on the U.S. Patent Classification system developed and maintained by the USPTO. If you are searching for patents based on subject matter, the U.S. Classification search is most useful because every patent is assigned to a specific set of classifications. While Keyword searching is useful, complete search results are less likely due to the inconsistancy of terminology used in the full text of patents.

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.


Before You Search

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Why conduct a patent search? People search patents for many reasons, most often because they have an invention they hope to patent. A search will determine whether an invention has patenting potential. Others search patents to find alternative approaches and suggestions to help resolve technological problems. Studies have shown that 80% of all patents hold information that is not published anywhere else in the world. By tapping into this tremendous resource, the searcher avoids "reinventing the wheel".