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The following guidance is intended only to show you
how easy it is to start searching.
First, we will summarise what you are going to do.
- You will use
your keywords to find at least some relevant patents. This may produce
enough prior art to end your search.
- If it does not,
you will use some of these relevant patents 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 key in ventilat*.) Then:
first results list
Go to Espacenet.
Key your search string into Smart search.
Click "search" and in a few seconds you
A results list.
it a relevant results list?
If an inspection of titles says it is not, go back
to Smart Search and try a different search string.
with bibliographic screens
On the results list, click on a title that looks
relevant. This opens up a bibliographic screen that should include an abstract
and usually a sample drawing. 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.
If you want to know more than you can learn from
the bibliographic screen, you may want to examine the full patent.
If you wish, you can select ‘Original document' and
download the whole patent. It may however be quicker to try one or more of
these steps to find key items of information:
Click the ‘Mosaics' link on the bibliographic
screen. This gives you a preview of all drawings, which may show more than the
single example on the bibliographic page.
Click the ‘Cited documents' link Among the
references listed, search reports list other patents that official examiners
have regarded as relevant. You may find there a crucial patent that you might
otherwise have missed.
Select ‘Claims'. 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 disclosure, 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 stop searching. If not, try shifting the
basis of your search from keywords to classifications or CPCs.
Go back to the Bibliographic screen of the most
relevant patent you have found and click its ‘Classification, e.g.
‘cooperative': 'Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC)'. If there is no CPC for
that patent, try another relevant patent.
For each CPC - there may be more than one - follow
Finding your first classification
After clicking right on the CPC and selection of
‘Open in new tab' a screen appears highlighting that classification. Does it or
any of its near neighbours sound relevant to your idea?
If it does, check the box alongside the
classification. Its number should automatically appear in the ‘Selected classifications'
grey box on the left. Click ‘Copy to search form'.
The Advanced Search page will appear with the ‘Cooperation
Patent Classification (CPC)' field filled in. Click Search.
You now get a list of all patents in that
your results list
Check through the patents, 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 CPCs.
other relevant classifications
There may well be more than one relevant
classification for your idea, so repeat all steps from using CPCs with
other relevant patents from your keywords search lists. If the same CPCs 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, add
one or more of your keywords and click Search to find relevant CPCs.
Have you ended up with very long CPC lists? Try
combining keywords with CPC terms to reduce numbers.
Go to the Advanced Search screen.
Key in the CPC that gave you a large results list.
In the "Title or abstract" field add one or more
of your keywords and click Search.
You should get a much smaller number of more
If necessary, keep repeating this procedure with
different keywords added.
For example: we want to find all patents for
Mousetraps are in CPC A01M23 ‘Traps for animals',
which on the date of our search held over 7 820patents - too many to search
Searching again for "a01m23" in the ‘CPC'
field and "mouse*" in the 'Keyword(s) in title or abstract' field
brought the number down to a much more manageable and relevant 573 patents.
If we did not find prior art within those 573, we
might try again with, for example, ECLA A01M23 and keywords rodent*, or rat*,
or bird*, or ‘small mammal*'.
general, the skill in searching is to narrow your search down as much as
possible without inadvertently excluding something that might be relevant.