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Patents and Trademarks: Getting Started

The Ryan-Matura Library is a United States Patent and Trademark Resource Center (PTRC) of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Preliminary Patent Search Guide

Organize Your Preliminary Patent Search 

Your PTRC Librarian can show you tools to identify search terms, classification codes, etc.

An Outline of Steps for a Preliminary Patent Search:

1. Brainstorm terms to describe the invention.
2. Use these terms to find initial USPC class/subclass in the Index to the U.S. Patent Classification (USPC).  
3. Verify the relevancy of USPC class/subclasses using the U.S. Patent Classification Numbers & Titles ListThen, confirm scope of subclass using U.S. Patent Classification Definitions (hyperlinked from the U.S. Patent Classification Schedules). 

4. [CPC Alternative] Use your terms to find initial relevant Cooperative Patent Classification using the USPTO website's Site Search box ( In the Site search box found in the top right hand corner of the home page enter "CPC Scheme [plus keywords(s) describing invention]"; for example, if you were trying to find CPC Classifications for patents related to umbrellas, you would enter "CPC Scheme umbrella". Scan the resulting classification's Class Scheme (class schedules) to determine the most relevant classification to your invention. If you get zero results in your Site Search, consider substituting the word(s) you are using to describe your invention with synonyms, such as the alternative terms you came up with in Step 1.  (If you continue to be disappointed with the CPC Classification search results, look for your search word in the International Patent Classification Catchword Index¬ion=cw (link is external); CPC is based on International Patent Classification).

5. Retrieve and review complete U.S. patent documents and published applications by USPC classification [and/or CPC Classification] in the PatFT (Patents Full-Text) and AppFT (Applications Full-Text) databases.
6. Using the USPC classification(s) you previously identified, find relevant Cooperative Patent Classifications (CPCs) using Statistical Mapping from USPC to CPC ; retrieve and review U.S. patent documents and published applications with these CPC classifications in the PatFT and AppFT databases.
7. Conduct a Classification Search of CPC Class Schemes on the EPO’s Espacenet website to expand your CPC searching to additional relevant CPC classifications.  You can then use these additional CPC classifications to find additional relevant patent documents and published applications on the PatFT and AppFT databases on the USPTO website.

Additional information at 

Finding Technical Search Terms

Technical dictionaries and reference books can help you identify useful search terms related to your concept.

What you should know about Google Patents

"Google is a very significant player in the world of patent searching now.  They have accomplished something that no other patent office, or to my knowledge, any of the for-fee patent databases have done, which is to have made nearly all US and European patent documents available in searchable full-text. However, they have used optical character recognition to create digital full text from the TIFF images of the old paper documents, and this has not been perfect. The oldest patents were hand-written, usually in very fancy script that can not be perfectly transcribed by OCR algorithms. It has also recently been pointed out that thousands of patents are actually missing from the Google database. Also of importance is that classification searching on Google is completely unreliable."

-from an interview with Martin Wallace, Science & Engineering Librarian at the University of Maine, Orono, and serves as Maine’s only representative to the Patent and Trademark Resource Center (PTRC),

Google's Advanced Patent Search is a user-friendly place for casual exploration of patents. Improve your results by using it as a source of keywords and classification numbers for further searching with the USPTO databases.

Searching Chemical Patents

International chemical patents can be searched using SciFinder Scholar. This database is accessible from the computer workstations in the Ryan-Matura and Cambridge Libraries. You must be a current Sacred Heart University student, faculty, or staff member to use this resource on-site at the Sacred Heart University Libraries or remotely. SciFinder Scholar provides access to chemical literature and patents through the following databases: Chemical Abstracts PLUS, the CAS Registry File, CASREACT and MEDLINE. Besides providing the most comprehensive coverage of chemical literature available, SciFinder Scholar also includes the literature of related fields such as biochemistry, geochemistry, environmental science, and toxicology. The database provides for searching by several chemistry-specific parameters, including structure, chemical substance, chemical reaction, CAS registry number and functional groups.  For more information and/or training on using the USPTO patent web databases, PubWEST, PubEAST, or Esp@cenet®, please contact the PTRC Librarian, 203-365-4842 or email: