Patent practitioners who have visited the USPTO’s website for information on searching for patents and published patent applications have likely stumbled upon the USPTO reference titled “The Seven Steps in a Preliminary Search of U.S. Patents and Published Patent Applications.”  Although this reference provides direction and a viable patent search strategy, it was written under the assumption that the USPTO’s dual document databases (PatFT for patents and AppFT for applications) are the tools you will be using to explore the USPTO’s archives. By instead using modern patent search software along with the USPTO’s patent search strategy, you can complete your patent search with efficiency and ease.

Step 1) Brainstorm Keywords

The USPTO recommends beginning your patent search by creating a brief, accurate description of your invention. The keywords you use in this description are essential to the success you will have in the following steps. As a result, you should also consider synonyms and technical terms that may be used by other patent applicants in your field. Searching for your keywords in LexisNexis TotalPatent One™ patent search software will pull up overviews of other patent documents including your keywords so that you can quickly scan for other relevant keywords that escaped you previously.

Step 2) Find the Relevant Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC)

The CPC is a system developed jointly by the USPTO and the European Patent Office (EPO) to classify patent documents. After identifying keywords in Step One, the USPTO recommends searching your keywords one-by-one after the phrase “CPC Scheme” in the USPTO.gov Site Search text box. This will yield a list of CPC classifications that could potentially apply to your invention.

Step 3) Verify CPC Relevancy

When you find a CPC classification title that might pertain to your invention, click the hyperlink to read the CPC classification description. Reading this description will provide you with information about the classification’s scope. Read carefully to verify the classification adequately covers your invention. For additional confirmation, search the CPC classification using TotalPatent One™ to read document summaries and to view patent drawings from other patents in that classification. If necessary, continue your search for the most appropriate CPC classification on the USPTO website.

Step 4) Retrieve Patent Documents from Database

The USPTO’s Step Four involves searching for your CPC classification using the PatFT database. Doing so will return a long list of patent titles and their corresponding patent numbers, and identifying relevant documents means either clicking meticulously through each patent link or relying solely on the impression created by each document title. Running a CPC search using TotalPatent One yields the same search results with the added benefit of the ability to view patent document titles, abstracts, statuses, and clipped front page images to quickly assess each document’s relevance.

Step 5) Review Each Patent Document Thoroughly

Patents can be viewed in their entirety and downloaded as PDFs from the USPTO website. Read your selected documents carefully to determine their effect on your invention. TotalPatent One’s intuitive user interface allows users to download patent documents in a variety of formats or to use patent search tools to quickly jump between patent sections for a more enjoyable reading experience.

Step 6) Retrieve Published Patent Applications

One of the drawbacks of conducting a patent search through the USPTO website is that users must search for patents and patent applications separately. Step Six is the repetition of Step Four, however, the AppFT database should be used in place of PatFT. TotalPatent One search software allows users to search for USPTO patents and patent applications, as well as for patent documents maintained by over 100 patent authorities simultaneously, to save time and steps needed to complete your patent search.

Step 7) Broaden Your Search with Keyword Searches

The USPTO’s seventh and final patent search step is to search for your keywords in PatFT and AppFT to shine light on documents you might have missed searching only for a CPC classification. By alternatively choosing TotalPatent One for your keyword search, you not only have access to the tools and shortcuts described in the previous steps, you can also filter keyword search results using interactive graphs and a variety of traditional filters to tailor the results to your needs.

LexisNexis TotalPatent One is the ultimate tool for conducting your patent search using the USPTO’s Seven Step Patent Search Strategy.

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