FreePatentsOnline vs. SumoBrain

The differences between FreePatentsOnline and SumoBrain are scant, due to the fact that both patent search sites were created and are being maintained by Patents Online LLC. was launched in 2004 en route to becoming one of the most visited free patent searching engines in existence today according to online traffic information company Alexa. SumoBrain was launched in 2007 but does not enjoy nearly the same traffic (again, according to So, you may ask yourself, what is the difference between these two sites and why would I go to one over the other?

FreePatentsOnline and SumoBrain are essentially the same product in almost every respect, since SumoBrain was created with its older brother as its base. The patent coverage is the same, the search forms are the same, the document and search string management are the same, and even the help files are the same. The only differences are the suite of patent related tools available on FreePatentsOnline and the bulk document import and export features of SumoBrain. To see this more clearly illustrated, use the Quick Table Comparison feature on Intellogist to see how the features for both systems match up side by side. (Note: free registration required to directly compare systems.)

FreePatentsOnline houses access to the following patent related tools not found on SumoBrain, including:

  • A Google Toolbar Plugin to search FreePatentsOnline
  • An embeddable FreePatentsOnline search box for your personal website
  • Quick links to search results for popular patent topics, assignees, new patents and applications, and “Crazy Patents”
  • A Patent Plaque tool to create an embeddable web-graphic featuring an inventor’s name and a link back to the patent in question on FreePatentsOnline

Information on these features and other related spin-off sites such as Cite Patents may be found in the Intellogist Report on FreePatentsOnline.

SumoBrain, on the other hand, allows users to import multiple document numbers at once and then download the found documents (if they are part of the SumoBrain collection). The download consists of a .zip file with .pdf files of the requested documents inside. More information on this feature can be found in the SumoBrain Intellogist Report.

So considering the vast similarities between FreePatentsOnline (FPO) and SumoBrain, why is FPO more popular, and which search system should you use?

The reason for FreePatentsOnline’s popularity edge seems to be better name recognition, a longer-standing site, and most importantly great Search Engine Optimization. A search for any patent number covered by FreePatentsOnline will, depending on the format, yield an FPO link in the top 5 results on Google, if not the top link itself. The toolbars and embedded tools that FreePatentsOnline offers may also help drive traffic to the site. SumoBrain, on the other hand, may be the search system of choice if you find yourself debating between the two sites. After a free registration, you’ll be able to take advantage of SumoBrain’s easy-to-use bulk downloading feature—the only real difference to heavy patent searchers like myself.

Do you have experience with FreePatentsOnline or SumoBrain? Do you like them? Which do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below and rate them anonymously (after free registration) over at

Technical Translations from Landon IP

This post was contributed by Intellogist team member Chris Jagalla.

6 Responses

  1. FPO has some impressive features. I love the fact that it covers withdrawn US patents and that titles of cited patents are displayed in records. And the ability to save up to 10,000 documents in your personal acct. is especially useful. I recommend this feature to engineering students. However, the accuracy of its search results compared to other public patent databases is spotty. I often find large discrepancies in classification and assignee name searches. For this reason, I’m reluctant to continue recommending it to students.

  2. Hi Michael, thanks for the comment! I really enjoyed your search system accuracy posts, so I’m glad you dropped by.

    What do your engineering students use patent search systems for? Depending on the application I can see the need to be exhaustive and accurate with regards to classification or assignee name searching. If they are just doing general research I wouldn’t think it would be a huge problem (don’t think I knew too much about patents when I was an engineering student!).

    • Engineering professors and librarians have long recognized the educational value of patents. There are engineering textbooks and articles dating back to the 1960s that discuss the importance of teaching engineering students how to search and use patent literature. Historically, this instruction has emphasized the technical information contained in patents, e.g. patents contain useful information not published in journals. Corporations understood this, too. I have a guide to patents published by Bell Labs in the 1950s that was written for its scientists and engineers.

      At my university, first year engineering students are introduced to patents and other forms of technical literature in their first course. And throughout their academic careers they are taught how to critically evaluate sources of information, how to design a research strategy, how to find evidence-based research, how to use advanced search tools such as subject headings, classification systems, citation tracking, etc.

      There is much more emphasis now on the value of patent literature as a source of market and industry information. I teach workshops to third and fourth-year engineering courses that require students to research the patent landscape in a particular industry or technology. And next year we’re adding a graduate level engineering entrepreneurship course. This isn’t unique to my university. Engineering education accreditation organizations worldwide are requiring programs to integrate these skills into the curriculum.

      • Thank you for the perspective on your university’s polices. I think it’s great that patents are being emphasized as a source of market and industry information, and I wish it would have been the same at my university.

        Generally, what do the students like in a patent search system? I would guess that initially Google Patents would be a hit since it is both familiar and easy to use, but eventually they may outgrow it. Anything more rigorous than FreePatentsOnline/SumoBrain or Patent Lens is usually for-pay, so that provides another problem.

  3. What do students like in a patent search system?

    1. Documents in PDF format and easy downloads. Espacenet and FPO score on both counts. Google Patents is okay for US documents. USPTO and SIPO use TIFF, which is horrid.
    2. Easy to use search interface. Espacenet and PatentScope are v. good, USPTO and CIPO so-so.
    3. Integrated classification search tools. USPTO and Espacenet have excellent integrated classification tools, but with different strengths and weaknesses. Patent Lens, despite its many other good qualities, gets a zero mark on this count.

    As an instructor I also emphasize:

    1. Currency
    2. Comprehensiveness
    3. Accuracy

    Of course students love Google Patents (and Google Scholar and Google Books). But easy and familiar does not always translate into good.

  4. […] For more info on the similarities and differences between FreePatentsOnline and SumoBrain, see last week’s Intellogist Blog post on the subject. Users can use the “^” operator to specify weighting within any normal keyword search […]

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