How to Do Patent Search Yourself (DIY) The Right Way?

1. Start with the USPTO’s research system

It’s best to visit a USPTO research facility.  The one in Alexandria, Virginia is preferred because its computers have the Exam Assisted Searching Tool (EAST) and you can talk directly with examiners and other staffers, who are there to assist researchers.  EAST is a free tool, though you have to pay for printing.  With EAST, you can search via class or subclass, Boolean or keyword terms, or a combination of both.  

You can visit a Patent and Trademark Depository Library as well.  These are located in major cities.  The USPTO’s website lists where they are and their hours of operation.  These do not have EAST but have the Web-based Examiner Search Tool (WEST).  The libraries also do not have information related to foreign patents or non-patent materials, such as journals.

If those aren’t options, you can also start with an online or patent database search.  The USPTO, European Patent Office and Google, for example, offer this service for free and there are other fee-based search tools.  Though the records here may not go as far back as EAST, the databases are oftentimes easier to navigate. 

2. Narrow down your search terms

Become familiar enough with your patent application, including the abstract, specification and claims, so you can come up with Boolean search terms and the classification that best describes the nature of your invention.  These search terms need to be thorough and exact in order for you to find patents already in the USPTO’s system, so coming up with synonyms may be helpful.  The USPTO website can also help you navigate the myriad of classifications.  It can take some trial and error to figure out exactly what you’re searching for and how to find it.