The following guidance is intended to show you
how easy it is to start searching.
- First, you will use
your keywords to find relevant patents. This may produce
enough prior art to end your search.
- If it does not,
you will use some of the relevant patents identified to find the relevant subject
classification for your idea. This can give better results than keywords
Using your list of keywords, prepare search strings
of up to ten keywords. Use Espacenet's wildcard feature to find plurals
and other variants. For example, to find ventilator(s), ventilate(s),
ventilated, ventilating and ventilation all at the same
time, just enter ventilat*.
first result list
Enter your search string in the Smart search bar at the top of the screen.
Select the magnifying glass icon to the right and in a few seconds you
will see a result list.
Are the results relevant?
If not, go back
to the Smart search bar and try a different search string.
with Bibliographic data view
In the result list, select a result that looks
relevant. This opens up a Bibliographic data view that includes an abstract
and drawings. One or both may be all you need to decide whether
that patent is relevant.
If it is not relevant, go back to your results list
and try another patent document.
If you want to know more than you can learn from
the Bibliographic data view, you may want to examine the full patent.
You can download the entire patent by selecting ‘Original document' from the Bibliographic data drop-down menu. It may however be quicker to try one or more of
the following steps to find key items of information:
Navigate through the drawings in the Bibliographic data view
Select the Citations view. Among the
references listed under Cited documents, search reports list other patent documents that official examiners
have regarded as relevant. You may find a crucial document here that might
otherwise have been missed.
Select the ‘Claims view'. Claims can sometimes be difficult
to interpret but they determine the commercial strength of a patent and so are
extremely important. Do any of them sound like the claims you might want to
make for your own invention? If so, the patent may be prior art as you will not
be able to claim what has already been disclosed by someone else.
Claims applied for versus claims granted
It is worth pointing out here that most documents in patent databases will be applications
only and not granted patents. Although the claims in applications
count as disclosures, they are often modified later and so may be no guide to
(a) the claims – if any – eventually granted, and (b) the extent to which your
idea might infringe someone else's patent.
After you have repeated this procedure a few times
you may have found enough prior art to end your search. If not, try shifting the
basis of your search from keywords to classifications, i.e. International Patent Classification'’ (IPC) and/or 'Cooperative Patent Classification'’ (CPC), the latter being an extension of the IPC.
Go back to the Bibliographic data view of the most
relevant patent documents you have found and select the corresponding CPC and/or IPC classification.
Finding your first classification
When you select an IPC or CPC, a pop-up window appears with a description of that classification. Does it or
any of its near neighbours sound relevant to your idea?
If so, right-click or tap and hold down specific classification and select Open link in new tab/window. In the Classification search page that appears select the box alongside the classification you want to find. The selected classification should automatically appear in the Selected classificationpanel on the right. Select Find patents.
A list of all patent documents in that classification appears.
your result list
Check through the patent documents, exactly as you did with
your keywords results list. This time you may find a higher proportion relevant
to your idea. If not, you may need to look for other CPC and/or IPCs.
other relevant classifications
There may well be more than one relevant
classification for your idea, so repeat all steps described under Using classifications for other relevant patent documents from your keyword result lists. If the same CPCs or IPCs keep
appearing, there is a good (but not guaranteed) chance that you are not missing
any other important classifications.
You can also use the Classification search page, to find other relevant classifications: enter one or more of your keywords in the search bar andadd
one or more of your keywords and select Search to find relevant CPCs/IPCs.
- Turning on the Filter toggle lets you view a list of CPC/IPCs for your result list by corresponding filter categories.
Have you ended up with very long CPC or IPC lists? Try
combining the classifications with title or abstract to reduce the number of results. You can use either Smart search bar queries or the Advanced search query builder to add or change search criteria.
For example, let's imagine we want to find patent documents relevant to
Mousetraps are in CPC A01M23 "Traps for animals",
which on the date of our search held over 7 739 patent documents – too many to search
Searching again for "a01m23" in the CPC field and "mouse*" in the in Title or abstract field
in Advanced search brings brought the number down to a much more manageable and relevant 817 patent documents.
If we do not find prior art within those 817, we
might try again with, for example, A01M23 in the CPC or IPC field and keywords rodent*, or rat*,
or bird*, or small mammal*.
general, the skill in searching is to narrow down your search as much as
possible without inadvertently excluding something that might be relevant.