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How To Patent Search

How to Do a Patent Search: A Step-by-Step Guide

Joshua Julien Brouard

Joshua Julien Brouard

20 October 20234 min read

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How to do a patent search

enIf you're looking to do a patent search, you've come to the right place. In this article, we'll show you, step-by-step, how to do a patent search. We'll also advise you about the different options available to conduct one.

Let's get started with step one of how to search for patents:

Step 1: identify the type of patent you're trying to find

Want to get your patent to patent pending status? This all starts with patent search services.

However, before you begin with this, it's essential to understand the different patent types.

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) manages three types of patents, these are as follows:

  • Design patents: Did you know that the Statue of Liberty was protected by a design patent? That's interesting to think about! A design patent protects the aesthetic features of an invention but not its functionality.
  • Utility patents: Since we're talking about old patents — the standard light bulb is a famous example of a utility patent. As you might've guessed, these types of patents protect the functional aspects of an invention.
  • Plant patents: There's a good chance you've never heard of this type of patent — they're not very common! Plant patents are for new plant types grown through cross-pollination.

So, once you've specified what type of patent you're searching for, it's time to move on to the next step:

Step 2: understand patentability

Do you want an answer to the question, “Can I patent my idea? Well, take note that not all inventions are patentable.

A patentable invention must:

  • Be new: any existing technology cannot be patentable.
  • Be useful: it should have some purpose.
  • Be non-obvious: this means that the invention must not be obvious to people with ordinary skills in the industry.
  • Have a written description in your patent documents that discloses how to create and use the invention.

Once you understand this and are sufficiently sure that your invention meets these criteria, you can move on to the next step:

Step 3: understand the USPTO's patent search engine

Now, you're ready to get started with your patent search. 

There are some free patent search tools you should know about, one of which is the United States Patent and Trademark Office Patent Public Search:

With this tool, you have two options to search for patents:

  1. A basic patent search
  2. An advanced patent search

A basic public search provides simple filters such as keywords or common fields, whereas advanced searches provide deeper filtering options such as searching by database.

Step 4: refine your patent searching

So now that you understand the USPTO patent search engine, it's time to start searching!

Part of this involves conducting a thorough keyword search. And what's the best way to start with this?

Brainstorm a list of keywords and various phrases that relate to your invention. 

Use AND, OR, and NOT to combine or exclude particular terms. You can also use wildcards such as "!", "?", or "*". Asterisks can be used to match multiple characters at the end of a word, such as "comput*" matching with computers, computation, etc.

Question marks match a single character such as "m?n" for "men" and “man.”

And exclamation marks work similarly to question marks, replacing a single character.

Finally, you can also use classification codes to supplement your search.

Spencer Keller, one of our patent attorneys here at Trademarkia, had this to say:

“The USPTO’s Patent Public Search can be a great resource, but it does have its own shortcomings. The boolean search tools can be confusing and frankly not very user friendly. It takes some time to get the hang of. For a quick, everyday search, I recommend Google Patents. 

Their advanced search is very user friendly and allows you to search for specific things within specific portions of the patent.”


Google also offers a way to conduct patent searches using Google Patents. The search engine collects data from over 100 of the largest patent offices worldwide.

This gives you access to over 120 million documents. It can form part of your preliminary search, particularly if you have ambitions to patent internationally.

Start a Google patents advanced search today: it’s completely free!

Is a comprehensive patentability search necessary?

While you can complete a quick 2-3 minute search on your own, ultimately, it's a good idea to seek out the services of a qualified patent attorney to complete your patent application.

A preliminary search may be useful to assess patentability, but to secure registration, it's a good idea to do a comprehensive search. Patent attorneys are familiar with the ins and outs of patent law and patentability and are well-equipped to help you with your patent documents (and this search!).

Ready to file your patent? Read our “Patent Filing 101” guide — we'll help you get started!


Can I do a patent search on my own?

You can do a patent search on your own. However, this will only be a preliminary US patent search. To have a comprehensive patent search conducted, you should get in touch with a qualified patent attorney.

How do I do a free patent search?

You can do an initial search with the USPTO's patent search engine. It's completely free and lets you access the results instantly.

How much does it cost to do a patent search?

The cost of conducting a comprehensive patent search will vary depending on the complexity of your invention. It could just be a few hundred dollars, but it may be more. Get in touch with one of our patent attorneys to get a precise figure.

How hard is it to do a patent search?

You can conduct a preliminary patent search on your own. However, budging for a comprehensive patent search is preferable as this way, you can ensure that your patent registration is approved.

Can anyone do a patent search?

Anyone can search for a patent by simply accessing the USPTO's patent search engine. It's accessible through just a few clicks.

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Joshua J. Brouard brings a rich and varied background to his writing endeavors. With a bachelor of commerce degree and a major in law, he possesses an affinity for tackling business-related challenges. His first writing position at a startup proved instrumental in cultivating his robust business acumen, given his integral role in steering the company's expansion. Complementing this is his extensive track record of producing content across diverse domains for various digital marketing agencies.