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What are Patent Databases?
One of the most crucial steps in the process of securing patent rights is the patent search. The process for undertaking a patent search has changed extensively over time. Before the age of computers, individuals seeking to search a patent history were forced to look through microfiche and hard copies of filed patents. The process was long and painstaking.
Computers dramatically changed the manner in which we research prior patent filings. Now patent applications are generally stored in both private and public databases. Searching for prior patents now happens almost entirely electronically. The companies or governments that manage the patent databases develop search algorithms to more effectively search.
In this article we mention the most-commonly searched patent databases. We explain the advantages of each database and the basic process for performing a search in them.
Google Patent Search Database
Google has created the most well-known, free database available through a private company. The database contains patent filings compiled from the major patent offices all over the world.
Google Patents is very user friendly and fast. The interface is developed for the novice in mind, but there is also an advanced patent search function for more seasoned patent searchers. The search function is extremely strong. The search engine produce results of search in less than a second. Also, the search generally provides a history of legal actions concerning the patent application. This includes any back-and-forth between the patent examiner and the inventor. Lastly, the format for viewing the results is very pleasing.
As stated above, Google patent offers a “simple search” feature and an “advanced search” feature.
The simple search functions allows for keyword searches for relevant technology. It also allows for direct search of publication numbers. While it does not require them, the simple search allows for the use of boolean operators in your keyword searches. This is very helpful when combining keywords for broad search. Further, the search can be narrowed by searches in the claims, title, abstract sections or within relevant classification codes.
The advanced search function provides numerous additional search criteria that is not provided in the simple search, such as: inventor, assignee of patent rights, patent office, language, filing status, patent type, citing patent. It allows for identification of keywords in the description of the patent publication. The major patent offices queried for patent information are the United States, Europe, Japan, China, South Korea, WIPO, Russia, Germany, The United Kingdom, Canada, France, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, and The Netherlands.
One of the few negatives of Google’s patent database it hat is does not offer a multi-word search function. Also, the Google database is not always as up-to-date on recent patent filings as paid search databases.
Patentscope is a free database put out by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Patentscope is a very comprehensive database. It contains patent applications from all major patent-filing countries and international patent applications filed under the PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty). The search interface is available in 9 languages. There is a mobile interface for searches on smart devices.
There are 4 primary search methods:
You can use the SIMPLE SEARCH interface to search for:
• Filing Number: a reference to patent document in the press, in a trial, etc.
• IPC Code
• Date of Filing
• Technology field
• Descriptive Keywords
There are 8 predefined search fields available, each defining different search criteria:
• FRONT PAGE: the search criteria you entered in this field will be searched in the front page of the document.
• ANY FIELD: the search criteria you entered in this field will be searched in any fields of the document.
• FULL-TEXT: enter your query in this field if you are interested in full-text.
• ENGLISH TEXT: the search criteria you entered in this field will be searched in texts in English.
• ID/NUMBER: enter publication number, filing number, etc.
• IPC: enter any International Patent Classification code.
• NAMES: enter your search in this field to look for the name of an inventor, an applicant, a company, etc.
• DATES: enter any date in this field such as filing date, publication date, etc.
The ADVANCED SEARCH in PATENTSCOPE is far more complex. It allows expert searchers to create complex search queries using an unlimited number of terms. Boolean, proximity, and range operators are used to combine search terms. Also the interface allows the use of field codes to define the fields in which search terms must be found. The FIELD COMBINATION SEARCH is a list of preset search fields that can be combined for a more targeted search.
CLIR stands for Cross Lingual Information Retrieval and will allow you to search for keywords in the following languages:
• Spanish and
PatentScope also allow you to browse recently filed applications. You can browse by week filed and by sequence listing. There is also a function that allows you to verify the legal status of the patent.
The USPTO Database
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is charged with granting patent rights within the United States. They provide a number of resources to facilitate this process. The primary database features are as follows:
PatFT - The PatFT database offers full texts of patents filed after 1976. For patent applications filed prior to 1976, the PatFT database will provide the patent applications in PDF image format.
AppFT - The AppFT database provides full texts and images of patents applications filed. This includes applications that are not successfully prosecuted to completion.
PAIR - The Patent Application and Retrieval (PAIR) database provides information about patent applications that are currently pending before the USPTO. It will also include aspects of the legal history between the inventor and the USPTO.
Collectively, each of these database functions facilitate a quick search with keywords within any of the fields or search criteria. You can focus the search by class or sub-class, pursuant to the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) system.
Espace European Database
Last, but not least, among the commonly-recognized, free databases is Espace. Espace is perhaps the best source for searching European and international patent applications. It allows for search of patent publications, machine translate patent documents (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean to English), track emerging technologies, and identify what competitors are developing.
Espace also provides a powerful classification search tool. This will help in the process of retrieving publications from a particular technical area. Espace provides a “Global Dossier”, which brings together documents when the same documents have been filed in multiple patent offices around the world. It provides access to the correspondence (“File Wrapper”) between applicants/attorneys and the offices of filing (Canda, China, Europe, Korea, Japan, US, PCT applications, etc).
Lastly, Espace has a common citation document (CCD) tool that provides a single point of acres to citation data for the patent applications in the largest five IP offices. Basically, it consolidates the prior art cited by the participating offices and shows those search results on a single page.
There are a number of paid databases that provide the same services available in Google, Espace, and PatentScope. These databases are generally more suitable to patent search professionals. They offer all sorts of search functions that are not available in the free databases. The downside is that accessing these databases is exceptionally expensive. Most of these databases are on subscriptions purchased by patent professionals. The most well-know paid databases are Patbase, Orbit, and Derwent.