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Patent searchers have a lot of options when they choose which search tools to use for searching US patents: subscription databases, search systems by official patent authorities like the USPTO, and even free search systems by individuals or commercial producers. The Intellogist Blog often discusses two of the major free commercially-produced patent search systems, FreePatentsOnline and Google Patents. When using a free patent search system, best bets are usually the search systems offered by official patent authorities (like the USPTO databases or espacenet) or one of the previously mentioned major free search systems. However, searchers tend to overlook smaller (free) commercially produced search sites that may also include some useful features.
Read on as we review some of the free sites that allow users to search for US patent documents. We discuss the special features, the pros, and the cons of these free patent search tools, after the jump!
- What is it?: Patent Genius is a free search system used to locate US patents issued after 1976. Users can browse the site through five categories: Inventor, Patent Holder, Patent Number, Date, or Categories (Use/Industry, based on US Patent Classification System). A Google Custom Search tool bar at the top of the page also allows users to search by keyword through all pages on the site.
- Notable Features: Patent Genius contains a category list on the homepage, organized hierarchically and alphabetically, that resembles a book index and is based on the US Patent Classification (USPC). If a user chooses a subtopic from this list, they can view the Class number for this topic and patents classified by this number. Users can view the patent images, bibliographic information, and full text of descriptions and claims through the website. Users can also read additional free guides on the patent application process through Patent Genius.
- Pros: Positive aspects of this site include hierarchical index of categories, browsable lists of inventors and assignees, and free resource guides.
- Cons: This site lacks multi-field search forms, PDF downloads, or the option for RSS/email alerts. This site also lacks coverage of US published patent applications. Finally, Google Ads are present on both search results and full records on the site.
- What is it?:According to its FAQ section, PatentStorm is a database of “full-text U.S. patents and patent applications from the U.S. Patent Office,” and the “database contains issued patents (including utility, design and plant patents) back to 1976, and yet-to-be approved patent applications back to 2005.” Users can browse the site by Subjects (based on USPC), Inventor, Examiner, or Date, or they can use quick or advanced search forms to enter queries. Searchers can use the site as unregistered users, but they must register in order to download PDFs or purchase enhanced PDFs (“AccuPatent Image”).
- Notable Features: PatentStorm records include bibliographic information on the document, full text of the claims and descriptions, and the option for registered users to download a basic PDF of the original document or purchase enhanced PDFs. Instead of simply listing US classification codes for each document, the records list “Field(s) of Search,” which are descriptions of the classification codes assigned to the document. Users can select these descriptions to view other documents categorized under the same code. Finally, Patent Storm also allows users to sign up for RSS feeds on the “most recent patents and applications” for certain patent classes.
- Pros: The site has many positive features, like coverage of US applications, browsable lists of inventors, examiners, and dates, both quick search and multi-field advanced search forms, the ability to download or purchase PDFs, RSS notifications for updates in certain classes, and descriptions of the classification codes assigned to the documents through “Field of Search” sections.
- Cons: The site doesn’t include a browsable list of assignees, and Google Ads are very prevalent on most pages of this site, especially the full record views.
- What is it?: Patents.com is a patent-based online community that allows users to view directories of patent professionals and search for US patent documents. Users must register in order to download PDFs, view their recent searches and PDF downloads, and create email alerts for keyword searches.
- Notable Features: Patents.com allows users to view the full text of the bibliographic information, claims, and a description of the patent document. Registered users can also download PDFs of the original documents, view their previous PDF downloads, view their most recent search queries, and sign up for weekly email alerts on keyword searches for patents. Patents.com also provides a directory of patent attorneys and patent providers (attorneys, inventors, or assignees), a lengthy FAQ section on the patent system, and provisional patent application filing services (fee based).
- Pros: Positive aspects of this site include coverage of published US applications, free downloads of original documents, viewable history of search results and PDF downloads, email alerts for keyword searches, and many additional resources, like directories and an informational section.
- Cons: This site has a very basic search form, and the search results are listed in an unorganized and unsortable fashion beneath the form. No browsable lists of inventors, assignees, examiners, dates, or categories are available. This site, like the other sites, also includes Google Ads.
How Useful Are They?
When it comes to patent search systems, you really get what you pay for. Most subscription databases have many more value-added features, analysis tools, and broader coverage than free patent search systems. The best free patent search systems include those created by official patent authorities or widely-known commercial systems like FreePatentsOnline and Google Patents. The patent search sites described above offer some interesting features, like free PDF downloads, email or RSS alerts, and additional resource guides, but these search tools should only be used as supplemental sources for professional prior art searchers. Casual searchers may enjoy browsing these sites to find quick information on the latest US patents, but experienced searchers will be irritated by the basic or non-existent search forms, prevalent Google ads, and poor coverage.
Are you aware of any useful free search systems for US or international patent documents? Let us know in the comments!
This post was contributed by Joelle Mornini. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company Landon IP, a major provider of patent searches, trademark searches, technical translations, and information retrieval services.