Account
Get our app
Account Sign up Sign in

Protect your Intellectual Property

Create IP documents and ask a lawyer your questions.

Search in Person

It's a good idea to do an in person patent search whenever you can, since it allows you to be the most thorough. All major cities have patent files on hand at the USPTO's Patent and Trademark Resource Centers. When you can see the actual hard copy files, it's easier to take notes on the current patents, and improve or redevelop your own invention to make it more unique. Note that patent records cannot be checked out of the library.

Search Online

The other option is to visit the USPTO Patent Full Text Database. This database allows you multiple search options and brings up full page images if you want it. Searches are generally faster in the online database, but it's hard to tell whether there's been a glitch in the system. Always conduct at least two searches to see if you've missed anything. One of the downsides to the Patent Full Text Database is how slow it runs sometimes. It's also fairly picky on word choice and search terms. Fortunately, Google has its own patent search, allowing you to run a free search on the patent database without having to worry about the USPTO quirkiness.

Search Effectively

One of the reasons that people hire patent attorneys is because patent searches are time consuming, even when done online. The databases offer a shortcut: you can search by patent number. However, a patent number search won't help you to find all of the similar patents or patents that perform similar functions. You'll have to rely on quick and advanced searches to check other categories. Here are a few tips to make searching easier:

  • Keeping good records is vital. Otherwise, you'll wind up repeating your work or missing key terms.
  • Draw up a list of keywords and phrases that could apply to your patent. Then begin researching each one.
  • Avoid attempts at batch keywords. It saves you time, but it decreases your accuracy.
  • Make note of your results. You'll see a significant amount of overlap, so make note of what you've searched and what you've found so you don't overlook anything important.

Making sure that your invention or design is unique is one of the first steps you should take before filing the patent application. It can save you a lot of time and money if you follow this step, but don't be surprised if it takes you a while. You have to be thorough. You can do it online or in person. Just remember to keep good records and track your results so you don't have to start from scratch. If you're ever unsure, talk to a patent lawyer.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.


Ask a lawyer

Our On Call attorneys are here for you.
Characters remaining: 600
Rocket Lawyer On Call® Attorneys

Try Rocket Lawyer FREE for 7 days

Start your Premium Membeship now and get legal services you can trust at prices you can afford. You’ll get:

All the legal documents you need—customize, share, print & more

Unlimited digital signatures with RocketSign®

Ask a lawyer questions or have them review your document

Dispute protection on all your contracts with Document Defense®

30-minute phone call with a lawyer about any new issue

Discounts! Incorporate for FREE + hire a lawyer with up to 40% off*

*Free incorporation for new members only and excludes state fees. Lawyer must be part of our nationwide network to receive discount.

Trusted and secure
Better Business Bureau A+ rating