How to Find Out If Something Has Been Patented

By Jeff Franco J.D./M.A./M.B.A.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the federal agency responsible for reviewing applications and determining whether to issue a patent. Since the underlying purpose of a patent is to protect the inventor's rights to a unique invention, similar inventions will not receive a second patent. As a result, it’s imperative that you search the USPTO patent database to find out if something has been patented prior to filling out an application.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the federal agency responsible for reviewing applications and determining whether to issue a patent. Since the underlying purpose of a patent is to protect the inventor's rights to a unique invention, similar inventions will not receive a second patent. As a result, it’s imperative that you search the USPTO patent database to find out if something has been patented prior to filling out an application.

Step 1

Navigate to the USPTO website. On the left side of the USPTO homepage, choose the option to search the patent database.

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Step 2

Choose the advanced search option. Conducting your patent search using the advanced search function allows you to use a number of different parameters to base your search on. Using the quick search function scans the same number of patents in the database, but it relies on generic keywords that may provide an overwhelming number of results to review.

Step 3

Select the parameters of your search. The USPTO provides you with 31 search parameter options in the field code columns, such as patent application date, the abstract of patents and patent title. Clicking on any of the 31 links in the field name column will direct you to instructions on how to use each of the parameters.

Step 4

Input your search criteria into the query box. The USPTO database requires that you enter the parameter and keywords in a specific format in order to generate relevant search results. At the top of the website, as well as in the field code instructions, there are examples of the format in which you must enter your search query for each specific code.

Step 5

Select the period of time for your search. Your search can begin with patents from 1976 up to the present, or you can select to go back as far as 1790. However, the database only includes complete information for patents beginning in 1976; pre-1976 patents are only searchable by the issue date of the patent, the patent number and the current U.S. classification.

Step 6

Click on relevant search results to determine if a patent exists. Database results are presented in list format and you must click on each result to review the patent information. Each result will provide background information on the invention, the functionality of the invention, and a description of the drawing that will help you determine whether the particular invention you have in mind already has a patent.

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How to Find a Patent Number

References

Related articles

What Are Patents?

Article I of the U.S. Constitution empowers the federal government to grant patents to “promote the progress of science and the useful arts.” A patent is a property right that enables an inventor to prevent others from using his invention for a limited time. In essence, it gives the inventor a monopoly and the exclusive rights to sell, use, or license the invention. To receive a patent, the inventor must publicly disclose how the invention works. By providing legal protection to new inventions, patents help encourage investments in research and development without fear that another will steal their hard work.

How to Cite a Patent Application

A patent is a type of intellectual property right granted by the U.S. government. Patents allow inventors to prevent other people from copying or using their invention without compensation. Each patent is given a unique number by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). If you are a researcher, lawyer or journalist, it may be necessary for you to cite patents in your work. The exact method for citation that you use will depend on where you are citing the patent. Different methods are used for legal citations, scientific citations and journalism.

How to Find Out If Someone Has Already Patented Your Idea

Checking to see if your idea has already been invented before applying for a patent saves you time and money. A patent gives you exclusive rights to the product or idea you invented and a way to fight intellectual property theft. The United States Patent and Trademark Office checks your idea against existing patients and pending applications during the application process. Your patent will be rejected if it's too similar to an existing patent, costing you the application fee. While you might find ideas that are similar to yours, you can still patent your idea as long as you show on the application how your take on the patent object is new. You can search for existing patents using various methods, including the USPTO's online database or in person at a field office.

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