By following these seven steps, you can conduct an initial search of US patents and prior applications with free online resources.
- Analyze and associate to come up with any words, phrases that can describe your invention.
- Use these words and phrases to initially determine which class/subclass of the U.S. Patent Classification your invention falls into. The following link is an index to the US Patent Classification: http://www.uspto.gov/web/patents/classification/uspcindex/indextouspc.htm.
- Use the following link to confirm the relevance of the USPC Class/Subclass you find: http://www.uspto.gov/web/patents/classification/index.htm.
- Use the link in Step 3 to find the US Patent Classification definition to further confirm the scope of the subclass you have found.
- Through the patent and application database, using the US Patent Classification codes in steps 3 and 4, it is possible to retrieve and read the entire filing of patents and prior applications. The link to the patent and application database is as follows: http://patft.uspto.gov/netahtml/PTO/index.html.
- Using the US Patent Classification codes in steps 3 and 4, you can find the corresponding Cooperative Patent Classification codes (CPCs) at the following link: http://www.uspto.gov/web/patents/classification/. With the found Cooperative Patent Classification code, you can retrieve and read all documents of patents and prior applications in the database of patents and prior applications.
- On the website of the European Patent Office you can find more relevant Cooperative Patent Classification codes. The relevant link is as follows: http://worldwide.espacenet.com/classification. You can use these additional Cooperative Patent Classification codes to retrieve and read more related patents and published application documents in the patent and prior application database.