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.
You may also print a detailed handout of the Seven Step Strategy outlined below
See "Tutorials" for more search guidance.
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.
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.
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.
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
There are a variety of tutorials that will help in your ultimate goal of obtaining a patent.
This UCF produced video explains patent classification systems and demonstrates how to conduct a patent search using the classic version of Espacenet, the free global patent database of the European Patent Office.
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 Patent Public Search using 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 - 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.