Patent Resources

Patent Resources

Useful Pages at the United States Patent & Trademark Office (

Patent & Application Searches Search for relevant United States patents or United States published patent applications.
Public PAIR Patent Application Information Retrieval (PAIR). Allows review of file history and status of patents and pending applications. Public PAIR is available to everyone. Private PAIR has a few more tools and is only available to people that have registered with the USPTO and been issued encryption keys to access information about patent applications associated with their specific key.
Public Pair Quick Start Guide The best way to learn about Public PAIR is to try it. But here is a USPTO introduction to Public PAIR for folks that would like to start with an overview.
Assignment Records In many instances, the ownership of a patent changes after the patent issues. The neither the printed version nor the PDF image of the patent gets updated beyond the owner at time of issue on the patent. Use of the assignment records web site enables searches to see updated ownership status a particular patent or to get a list of the various United States patents or pending patent applications that a particular person or company owns.
Maintenance Fee Records A United States utility patent lapses if not renewed by paying a maintenance fee. The maintenance fee records site allows a person to check to see if a patent has lapsed for failure to pay a maintenance fee. NOTE – there is a liberal policy on allowing a patent to be revived for failure to pay a maintenance fee, so check with a patent attorney if you find a patent has lapsed.
Guide to Patent Searching The USPTO gives one method to search for patents or pending applications. The PTO suggested search method has an emphasis on using art class codes. Art class cods are a set of numeric codes much like Dewey Decimal classification system for non-fiction books.
Art Class Codes (new) Newer system for classifying patent applications by art class codes.
Art Class codes (old) Older systems for art class codes. You will see these codes on many issued patents.
Fees for patent applications The current list of USPTO fees for patent applications, maintenance fees for issue patent, PCT fees, and other fees.
Guidance on Section 101 Issues in light of Bilski, Alice, etc. Most entrepreneurs are not likely to take this deep a dive into patent law nuances. However, if you are aware of the issues raised by the United States Supreme Court in recent cases such as Bilski, Alice and so forth, then you might want to see how the USPTO explains this mess to non-lawyer patent examiners. Section 101 deals with whether a particular invention is the type of invention that can get a patent under United States patent law. Section 101 is a separate concept from comparing the new idea to the prior art to check for novelty or non-obviousness.
Manual of Patent Examining Procedure The Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) is the phone book sized set of rules for use by the patent examiners and patent attorneys. The MPEP is supposed to be compliant with the laws, the regulations, and the case law from the federal courts especially the United States Supreme Court and a court of appeals that hears all patent cases (CAFC – Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit). NOTE the MPEP is not kept up to date and frequently does not have the latest information on the state of the law. So the MPEP it is frequently wrong. Also, the MPEP sometimes has guidance for the patent examiners that is a slanted interpretation of the law which may or may not be accepted by the courts. The MPEP is not law, just a guess by the USPTO on what the law is.


Warnings about Invention Promotion Firms

Invention Promotion Firms – File a Complaint There are a number of invention promotion firms that take money from inventors and provide little or no value back. I do not know all these companies and cannot say for certain that there is not at least one that earns the money paid by inventors, but I have seen some really bad results. The United States Patent and Trademark Office has a web page that leads to a place where complaints can be submitted against invention promotion firms.
Invention Promotion Firms – Review Published Complaints The United States Patent and Trademark Office publishes complaints against invention promotion firms and their responses. Some of the page links seem to have gone bad but at least some of the newer complaints can be reviewed. Keep in mind that these invention promotion firms will sometimes close down and form a new company with a slightly different name. So not finding a complaint does not guarantee that the invention promotion firm is reputable.

Invention Promotion Firms

Federal Trade Commission

The FTC has the authority to discipline invention promotion firms that take advantage of an inventor’s enthusiasm. They provide guidance on the topic of Invention Promotion Firms.


Non-USPTO Sites Useful When Searching for Patents or Published Applications

Pat2pdf A site to obtain free PDF copies of US patents and US Published Applications. (Donations accepted)
TIFF Viewer USPTO Patent/Patent Application searches allow you to see the figures associated with the patents/applications. However, the USPTO did not want to use the proprietary PDF format so the figures are TIFF images. If your browser does not handle TIFF images, then download this free extension.
Google Patents A great tool for searching for patents or published applications. Google patents includes patents from several countries beyond the United States. There are some advanced features that help you narrow the search.
Fresh Patents Emails to your inbox each week a list of newly published applications that meet your search criteria.
WIPO search tool A first tool to search for patents and applications beyond the United States. Useful to see a family of patents that includes both US and non-US applications for the same invention.
EPO search tool An alternative tool to search for patents and applications beyond the United States. Useful to see a family of patents that includes both US and non-US applications for the same invention.


Other Useful Tools When Searching for Prior Art

Google Scholar Google Scholar is a freely accessible web search engine that indexes the full text or metadata of scholarly literature across an array of publishing formats and disciplines.  As prior art is limited to just patents and published patent applications, Google Scholar can be a useful tool for locating relevant prior art. is also known as the Wayback Machine. By either name, the site is a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more. can be useful as it collects and stores snapshots of current versions of websites. So information that is no longer on a web site may be found here. The system lets you know that XYZ information was collected in a crawl of a particular website on a particular day. Can be useful if you are trying to sort out whether something appeared on a web site before a patent application was filed.


WIPO/PCT Resources

PCT Timeline The PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) timeline is useful to know as it allows deferral of the expenses to enter various non-US patent systems.
PCT Countries There are now 151 patent systems that are part of the PCT system. A complete list is found via the provided link. We are running out of countries to add, so the 151 tally may stay stable for a few years.


Other Sites with Information about Patent Law

Patently-O Most entrepreneurs will not need to dive this deep into patent law. But if you have an issue that you want to explore and you want well-reasoned discussions, then visit Patently-O. Patently-O claims tob be America’s leading patent law source and it is a reasonable claim. I find the posts to be useful, but sometimes the best part is reading the thread of comments from patent attorneys and patent examiners hashing out a complex issue.
Bilski Blog As mentioned above, there are rules on what types of inventions are eligible to seek a US patent under Section 101 of the patent laws. Section 101 issues have become a growing problem over the last several years and preclude many inventions from obtaining patent coverage. The Section 101 issues have been complicated by recent United States Supreme Court decisions in Bilski and Alice with vague prohibitions against abstract claims – primarily, but not exclusively, in the business method space. The Bilski blog is a great resource for people with a keen interest in the Section 101 issues.
AIPLA American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA). The primary association for intellectual property law attorneys. There are resources here on a wide variety of patent issues as well as on other forms of intellectual property. Kevin E. Flynn was an invited speaker at the annual AIPLA conference a few years ago.
US Code Title 35 The patent laws are in Title 35. A reliable source for free access is run by Cornell University Law School.
Code of Federal Regulations Title 37 The Code of Federal Regulations is the set of rules set by the relevant federal agency to implement the laws. Again, one can access the Code of Federal Regulations through the site maintained by Cornell Law School.