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. Use these terms to find initial relevant Cooperative Patent Classification using the USPTO website's Site Search box (www.uspto.gov). In the Site search box found in the top right hand corner of the home page enter "CPC Scheme [plus keywords(s) describing invention]".
3. Verify the relevancy of CPC classification you found by reviewing the CPC Classification Definition linked to it (if there is one).
4. Retrieve U.S. patent documents with the CPC classification you selected 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.
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 U.S. published patent applications with the CPC classification you selected in Step 3 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 to find additional U.S. patent publications using keyword searching in PatFT or AppFT databases, classification searching of non-U.S. patents on the European Patent Office's Worldwide Espacenet patent database and searching non-patent literature disclosures of inventions using the free electronic and print resources of your nearest Patent and Trademark Resource Center.
Information found at - https://www.uspto.gov/products/library/ptdl/services/step7.jsp
The Computer-Based Training video developed by the USPTO is a step-by-step guide for searching PatFT and AppFT using the CPC classification and, if your invention has not been previously patented or disclosed, provides the next steps to take.
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.