When you think you have a patented idea, before you begin the patent process, you should answer these few questions:
1. Understand what a patent does
2. Keep a record of your invention
3. Make sure your invention qualifies
4. Assess the commercial potential
5. Do a thorough patent search
Once you think you have a unique idea, you can begin the process of seaching products that have been patented to make sure your idea has not already been designed, developed or submitted and not yet approved.
The Seven Steps in a Preliminary Search of U.S. Patents and Published Patent Applications
The Patent and Trademark Resource Center Program provides a CBT (computer based training) tutorial with a detailed review of the Seven Step Strategy.
You may also print a detailed handout of the Seven Step Strategy
See "Tutorials" below for more search guidance.
1. Brainstorm terms to describe the invention.
2. Access and review Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) schema. On the USPTO home page (www.uspto.gov) using the Find It Fast menu, select the Patents tab and open the Classification page. Use the Classification Text Search box to search for your terms.
3. Verify the relevancy of each CPC classification you found by reviewing the CPC Classification Definition linked to it (if there is one).
4. Retrieve and review U.S. patent documents using CPC classification in the PatFT (Patents Full-Text and Image) database. Review and narrow down the most relevant patents publications by initially focusing on the front page information of abstract and representative drawings, jotting down the numbers of patents that are similar to yours.
5. Using this selected set of most relevant patent publications, review each one in-depth for similarity to your own invention, paying close attention to the additional drawings pages, the specification, and especially the claims. References cited by the applicant and/or patent examiner may lead you to additional relevant patents.
6. Retrieve and review U.S. published patent applications using CPC classification in the AppFT (Applications Full-Text and Image) database. Use the same search approach used in Step 4 of first narrowing down your results to the most relevant patent applications by studying the abstract and representative drawings of each on its front page. Then examine the selected published patent applications closely, paying close attendion to the additional drawings pages, the specifications and especially the claims.
7. Broaden your search using the following options:
a. Supplement the search using keywords to find documents that may not have been well classified. Keywords also allow you to use truncation, plurals, and quotation marks for more precise searching.
b. Broaden the search with U.S. Patent Classification (USPC). The USPC system was the primary means of classification until it was discontinued in 2015.
c. Search foreign patents and published patent applications using the CPC classification. Re-run the search using Espacenet (https://worldwide.espacenet.com), the European Patent Office's Worldwide patent database of over 90 million patent publications.
d. Search non-patent literature. NPL consists of books, journals, websites, technical catalogs, conference proceedings, and more. Patent and Trademark Resource Center staff can help with this search, or you may wish to consult a subject librarian who specializes in your field.
e. Hire a registered patent attorney or patent agent to review the search. Conducting a preliminary search prepares you to discuss your invention with a patent professional, and can save you time and money that would otherwise be spent covering patent basics. To search for a registered patent attorney or agent, consult the USPTO's online roster at https://oedci.uspto.gov.
Information found at - https://www.uspto.gov/products/library/ptdl/services/step7.jsp
How to conduct a preliminary U.S. patent search: A step-by-step strategy is the Computer-Based Training video developed by the USPTO for searching PatFT and AppFT using the CPC classification.
University of Wisconsin's Introduction to Patents microcourse teaches about the patent process, anatomy of a patent, patent searching, and additional resources.
Harvard University's How to Read a Patent shows the parts of a patent and includes code descriptions and definitions.
Penn State's PTRC video: Classification Searching on the USPTO Website demonstrates how to locate patent classification information using "Searching by class" on the USPTO website. The latest revision of the Classification search page eliminated the toolbar at the top, so to follow the "CPC Sections" walkthrough, click on Additional Resources--> CPC --> Scheme on the current page.
Cooperative Patent Classification System/CPC - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POxlp0PQF20 The new system, CPC, was developed jointly by the European Patent Office and the United States Patent and Trademark Office to harmonize the exchange of works between the two organizations and patent searching in general. The system is based on the IPC (International Patent Classification) and the ECLC (European Classification). The video gives you the history of the CPC and shows the different options when searching for a patent.