How do I check to see if a patent already exists?


It is possible for you to conduct your own search. For an introduction to patent searching for the novice, you may wish to refer to the patent search tutorial at the Richard W. McKinney Engineering Library, the University of Texas at Austin, which is available here. Although some of the instructions given there may be unique to the Austin library and the focus of this introduction is on the Cassis CD-ROM products, the fundamentals of patent searching remain the same for any location.

Conducting a thorough patent search is difficult, particularly for the novice. Patent searching is a learned skill. The best advice for the novice is to contact the nearest Patent and Trademark Depository Library (PTDL) and seek out search experts to help in setting up a search strategy. If you are in the Washington, D.C. area, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) provides public access to collections of patents, trademarks, and other documents at its search facilities located in Alexandria, Virginia. A list of PTDLs is available here and information on the Alexandria search facilities is available here.

You may also wish to consider contacting an attorney specializing in patent law or a patent search firm. The USPTO cannot aid in the selection of an attorney or search firm. Local bar associations and the yellow pages usually have attorney listings broken down by specialties. Search firms are often listed in the yellow page section of telephone directories under the heading "Patent Search Services" or "Patent and Trademark Search Services."