Free Patent File History Tools: Ipsum vs. USPTO PAIR

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The USPTO public PAIR (Patent Application Information Retrieval) portal is an extremely useful tool for checking application statuses for US patent documents and viewing File Wrappers, which contain electronic versions of all correspondence  with the USPTO related to a particular  patent application.  The Intellogist Blog has posted a two part guide on how to use the public PAIR portal, and we’ve located the File Wrapper for the famous “Godly Powers” patent application on PAIR.

Earlier this month, the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO)  released the full version of its equivalent to PAIR: Ipsum.  Ipsum, available on the IPO website, describes itself as a “free online service which lets you check the status and access information on UK patent applications. You can also get copies of some documents from the open part of the file.”  A flurry of  online posts and articles praise Ipsum for potentially saving UK business as much as “£100,000 per year,” since it “will remove the cost to businesses of requesting patent documents; instead they will now be available for free at the click of a button.”

Does Ipsum have any unique features that differ from public PAIR?  How does the coverage of Ipsum compare to public PAIR?  And these free systems don’t offer a wide range of coverage, so where can you find patent file histories that aren’t available on Ipsum or PAIR? Find out after the jump!


For an in-depth look at the PAIR interface, check out our guide on using the public portal.  When users search for the status and File Wrapper of a US patent document in PAIR, they can choose to search by application number, control number,  patent number, PCT number, or publication number.  The user must also enter a reCAPTCHA on the Public PAIR homepage before conducting the search.  Once the PAIR record has been located for a patent document, users can view legal status, bibliographic details, and download any or all Image File Wrapper documents into a single PDF file by accessing various tabs within the record (Application Data, Transaction History, Image File Wrapper, Published Documents, Address & Attorney/Agent, Display References).

The record sections in PAIR are accessible through a tabbed menu.

Ipsum has less search options (you can only search by publication or application number), but the correct formats for the number queries are handily displayed right beside the search form.

Search by application or publication number in Ipsum.

Ipsum’s search function works efficiently to immediately bring up the record on the requested patent document.  The bibliographic details  and legal status of the document are on the main page of the record under the “Case Details” section, along with the option to view the document record on Espacenet.  A small side menu (titled “Select case view”) allows the user to access other sections of the document record:

  • Case Details (main page) – Bibliographic details, legal status, and Espacenet link.
  • Documents – Select any or all available documents associated with this patent case and download them into a single PDF file.

Download all selected documents for the patent case into a single PDF document.

  • Forms Filed – A list of dates and descriptions of all forms filed and fees payed.
  • Case Notes – A list of dates and descriptions of notable events (e.g. change of address).
  • ClassificationsUKC, IPC, and ECLA classifications of all versions of the document.
  • Citations – List of citations related to the document and links to view the cited documents on Espacenet.
  • Field of Search – Listed classification fields for UK and international searches related to the document.
The search function in Ipsum is slightly easier than public PAIR, since the user doesn’t need to enter a reCAPTCHA on Ipsum.  Ipsum offers less search options than PAIR, since PAIR allows the user to search by control, patent, or PCT number, in addition to searching by application or publication number.  The display features on Ipsum and PAIR are very similar, with a tabbed menu in PAIR and a static side menu on Ipsum.  PDF versions of associated documents can be downloaded into a single file on both portals.  Despite slight differences in search functionality, PAIR and Ipsum both have similar display interfaces.


Where Ipsum really differs from PAIR right now is patent document coverage.  According to the IPO website:

The following documents (unless excluded for one of the reasons set out below) from the open part of the file are available for GB patent applications published after 1 January 2008 (i.e. with a publication number of GB2439518 or greater):

  • A & B specifications (including some published before 1 January 2008)
  • Abstracts
  • Claims
  • Descriptions
  • Drawings
  • Examination reports (both preliminary and substantive)
  • Search reports
  • PCT forms and documents provided to the IPO
  • Correspondence sent by the IPO after 1 November 2010 or received by the IPO after 1 March 2011.
  • The following will only be available if put on the file after 1 July 2011:
    1. Post grant documents and related correspondence
    2. Correspondence related to third party observations
    3. Formal complaints and related correspondence which are case specific
    4. Documents related to granted EP(UK) patents.

Data available in public PAIR covers US patent documents from 2001-present, according to

Why does public PAIR have longer coverage of US patent documents than Ipsum’s coverage of  GB documents?  Probably because the full version of Ipsum was released only this month, while public PAIR was released in 2004.  It’s unclear if Ipsum will retroactively add patent document file histories to the system, or if the patent file histories will only be electronically available for patent documents filed after 2011.

Access to More Patent File Histories

Both public PAIR and Ipsum have similar search and display interfaces, and both systems allow users to download electronic versions of documents associated with patent file histories.  Public PAIR has broader coverage of US patent documents dating back to 2001, while Ipsum only covers GB patent applications back to the beginning of 2008.  Public PAIR has existed for over seven years, while the full version of Ipsum was only released this year, so it is understandable that Ipsum has limited coverage dating back only about 3 years.  Neither Ipsum nor PAIR provide access to all patent file histories in the US or UK, so where can you go to access a broader collection of file histories?

Landon IP has one of the largest collections of electronic patent file histories in the world, representing access to over 150,000 patent files. All of their electronic file histories are PDF documents that are indexed by section and fully searchable by keyword.  For more information on file histories available through Landon IP, visit their website.

How do you think Ipsum could be improved?  Do you know of any other free public portals for accessing patent file histories?  Let us know in the comments!

Patent Information from Landon IP

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.

10 Responses

  1. Interesting comments about Ipsum. As a US agent, I’ve found the PAIR system to be especially useful. I only wish they would give all of the documents permanent urls and then OCR them. Then it would be completely searchable.

  2. AU file histories back to about 2006 or 7 are available in AusPat

  3. PAIR versus Ipsum? Sounds like “Celebrity DeathMatch” (the claymation series)! ;)

    Re PAIR (and EFS), while there are many clunky things about the PTO and the examination process, the onine access and filing systme is one thing the PTO did right. I remember when I was practicing solo the first time back in 04 and would drive the 33 miles (each way) to the PTO to hand-file because I just didn’t want the worry of things getting lost in the mail; now, it’s jsut so darned easy to get everything safely on file — immediately verifiable — with just a few keystrokes.

    By the way, I met with an Australian practitioner colleague yesterday pre-AIPLA; Australian online systems are still working out the kinks.

  4. Maybe Kappos versus Stoll in claymation? :)

  5. Great information. Lucky me I came across your site by accident (stumbleupon).
    I have bookmarked it for later!

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