Welcome inventors! Hopefully, you’ve read through and implemented all 6 steps of the Basic Guide to Patent Searching. That article covers all of the basics, and although I’ll be repeating a little here, you need a decent foundation for this blog to make sense for you.
Just in case you missed the above, please read the basic Patent Search Article first! It is a great resource that I keep up to date for all my readers.
I get it, maybe you just want to jump to the good stuff…but I’m telling you, you owe it to yourself to understand the big picture of why you need to do a patent search before getting started with the provisional, nonprovisional, or design patent.
Also check out the video below! If you’re just not a reader (or you want to supplement the reading), I’ve done an in-depth video to accompany the search blog I mentioned above.
Let’s get down to it!
The Basics of Google Patent Searching
This article focuses on just one way of searching (which happens to be the best way to start) through almighty Google.
As many of you probably know by now, we’re going to look at the specialized search that Google has created for patents.
Something to notice right away is the checkbox underneath the search menu (see redcircle below). You’ll want to check that if you want to include non-patent literature.
In essence, the examiner is going to be on the lookout for any publication or subject matter that has become part of the public knowledge base for a person of ordinary skill in the art (POSTIA).
So, here are the differences in what search results will yield….
In this article, I’m going to use a fun (and, as of the writing of this article, timely) example of an invention related to detecting and locating rainbows (with the intent of finding a pot of gold, of course!).
Seriously: I’m going to start my search to see what patents are out there that detect, analyze, and locate rainbows.
For those who love videos, I go through a search I did for “American Flag” using the Google Patent search tool in this video!
What does it all mean? Natural Language & More.
I’m going to start with natural language search “method for locating rainbows”. The first result set is withoutchecking non-patent literature:
Taking each of these in turn, let’s see what information you can learn from each:
Phrases turned into words: Much like the traditional Google Search, the patent search will break each word you type into the search bar into its component words and will treat them separately in terms of Boolean search terms. Here you can see “method,” “locating,” and “rainbows” were picked up and the word “for” was disregarded automatically
Priority date ranges: This is very important when it comes to novelty searches. Novelty means (in patent parlance) 35 USC 102. This section controls that any prior art/publication that precedes the filing of a patent application will act to potentially bar patenting on that same subject matter. Basically, if it’s not new, you can’t get a patent on it! This is important.
If you know what date you filed your patent application (let’s say 1/1/2018 – see example below), then you can set the date range to only contain those patent publications that are up to a certain date.
If you leave a field blank, it will be open ended, so the earlier date field will go back as far as it has records.
Inventor: This field is what you think, and will help narrow a search if you know one of the inventors of a certain publication. You can put in as much of the name as you know of – Google will grab even a misspelled name and return an accurate result
Assignee: This also means “owner.” In many cases, inventors are also employees of companies (or are CEOs or founders of their own startups) and they chose to assign the ownership of the patent asset to the company. This is advantageous for many reasons including the ability to separate the individual and the business entity – secure liability protection for underlying product/services when sold to customers, and can help to ease transactions that are inherently B2B where companies will prefer to transact between two businesses instead of between an individual and and a business.
Patent office: This will allow you to select which patent office to conduct the search from. Usually the US will be the option to pick (especially to start), but as you begin to get more developed, you can search specifically for more countries.
You can select more than one country, which is helpful, if you know the scope of your search will only be in US, EP(Europe), and Japan(JP) it would look like this:
Language: Pretty simple concept, but the search will be performed in the languages (as opposed to the patent office) that you’re interested in searching. This is important to note: just because you are a citizen or reside in a foreign country, you can submit a patent anywhere in the world. It just needs to be transcribed into that language and conform to the laws of that patent system.
Status: This can be overlooked, but is vital to understanding what results you’re looking at. There are only two types of “status”: “granted” or “application.” Granted means that rights have actually been issued, and the results actually have current (or past) patent rights to assert – this could be a big deal if you’re doing preliminary infringement analysis to see whether your product or service is going to possibly infringe another patent.
Application means that the publication hasn’t granted yet;.. and while there are no rights, it could issue soon, and therefore is something to take seriously. Note: publications and applications still act as “prior art” and can prevent you from acquiring a patent on the same or similar subject matter
Type: There are only two types of patents under the Google Patents search: “patent” and “design”. (I personally take offense to this,as design patents are also patents!) However, Google has “patent type” which should be “utility” inventions (remember, those that have functional and useful claims).
(Here is that color guide again to remind you which section is which! Moving on….)
“Lighting methods and systems:” You can tell from this result (the quick search results) that this result may be something to click on. It shows that it at least has patents applied for in “WO EP US” which means WIPO, European Union, and United States. So, it could be several member countries of the WIPO or EU as well. You can also see the brief description of the invention with keywords, where the word “rainbow” only shows up once, so this may not be as strong of a reference after all. Below you’ll see the page that appears when we click the result.
You can see from the abstract (highlighted in green again) that this is not going to get us to our magical gold or even close to a rainbow. This is focused on “power systems.” We can go back to our search results….
Red highlight (The green result was not very close, and this one is even further from what we’re looking for….):
The red highlight shows a foreign patent document – this one is in Japanese. In fact, one upside that Google does provide is an attempted translation. You’ll see below that Claim 1 is translated quite poorly and doesn’t read very well. Still, better than nothing.
By hovering over the translated text, you can see the original Kanji (Japanese characters) of the originally published Japanese patent.
You can see by the “…” in front of the title of the patent publication, the heart of the search string is not found in the title at all and the word “rainbow” is found, but only as part of a trademarked brand of a software called “Rainbow Bridge,” which is a VOIP service – not a great result.
You can see here the inventor is Japanese.
You can see the patent offices where they have rights (or could have pending rights) in EP, US, JP, and DE.
Google does the hard work of converting what you see below into easily digestible and searchable results. Thanks, Google!
This will show, based on the search results, which companies (assignees) are most prevalent in terms of owning technology/claims/designs with the search string you entered
This will tell you whether the industry is dominated by certain players or if it’s more spread out.
In this case, just over 2% ownership by “Rainbow Displays” could be significantly indicative of an ownership trend worth noting.
If you click on “Rainbow Displays” as is shown on the above graphic, you will get a much more detailed shot of ALL patents/publications assigned to “Rainbow Displays, Inc” – and the tool will automatically populate the “Assignee” box on left – now you can see all of the patents owned by the company.
Below is an example for a search string called “earphones” “headphones” for granted patents in the US:
Sony and Apple battle here: Sony has a dominant percentage (remember though, as with most things, quantity is not everything).
Here’s an example of “shoes” for granted patents – and you can see the big player is Nike.
That should help you navigate the Google Patents Search page fairly well. By using the Google search tool, the goal is to begin to drill down into finding a handful of very close prior art.
The truth is, 99% of all inventions out there are improvements on current technology… and the fact is that there is so much innovation happening constantly, you can usually find someone else that has published something close to what you’ve invented.
Do not be discouraged by this! This is why you’re doing the search: to confirm just exactly how your invention differs from what’s been published already.
There is real value from having done due diligence up front, and it is why I stress the importance of a patent search along with a legal opinion before heading down the patent application route.
Here’s a video explaining the key reasons that you should get a patent search opinion:
Find The Classification Numbers
The goal of the regular Google Patent search is to find these close prior art and find the classification numbers associated with them, so you can then conduct an advanced search with those (see below).
Begin to assemble the classifications in a list, so you can become familiar with them. When you find a patent document, here is where you go to get the classifications:[image]
You can see there are at least two different classification systems: “International Class” and “U.S. Classification.” Get familiar with these. You can see that Int. Cl is H04R 25/00, and US Class is 381/380, among others.
Advanced Google Patent Search
I wanted to show you the Advanced Google Patent Search as well. In my opinion, this tool does not have a very good user interface, and it’s not my favorite place to search, but since this is the advanced guide, I figured I owed it to you.
I’m going to focus my discussion on three aspects of this advanced search tool that I do find valuable.
This section is a much clearer way of showing the Boolean searching, but instead of using terms such as “or,” and,” and others in the regular search string, this helps people that are used to the traditional Boolean search to have those fields to better define what they’re looking for.
Don’t forget the “without” field too: this will help you filter out linguistically related terms that could fill up your results with junk. For example, if you’re searching for “automotive fenders” you may want to restrict “guitars” to eliminate Fender guitars from coming up
This is the true beauty of the advanced search tool. Classification searching is the holy grail of patent searching.
Once you find a perfect classification set (grouping of classifications that bounds your invention), you can cut across wording, language, patent office, and really cover a vast body of prior art all within a very specific technology.
In case you missed it, getting a classification set is the goal of the Google Search – this is where you can use it.
Here’s a great guide for international patent classifications.
This is a simple little adjustment that Google Advanced Search has that the regular search doesn’t. It allows date ranges that will specifically search for issued or published patents.
Remember, the key difference between issued and published is that one (issued) is for patents that are in force (and have actual rights) whereas published just means they are in process and do not have rights (yet).
You wanted advanced, you got it! I’m so happy you took the time to read through this patent search guide, and it’s my pleasure to share it with you.
I honestly believe that sharing information like this with you hard working inventors is the way I’m supposed to give back, and pay it forward in a way. I’m going to keep it coming, so get ready!
Legal Note: This blog article does not constitute as legal advice. Although the article was written by a licensed USPTO patent attorney there are many factors and complexities that come into patenting an idea. We recommend you consult a lawyer if you want legal advice for your particular situation. No attorney-client or confidential relationship exists by simply reading and applying the steps stated in this blog article.
Legal Note: This blog article does not constitute legal advice. Although the article was written by a licensed USPTO patent attorney there are many factors and complexities that come into patenting an idea. We recommend you consult a lawyer if you want legal advice for your particular situation. No attorney-client or confidential relationship exists by simply reading and applying the steps stated in this blog article.