AMBROGI LAW OFFICE > ARTICLES
Patent and Trademark Searching Via the Web
By Robert J. Ambrogi
Using the Web, lawyers can search patents and trademarks throughout the world. Here is a guide to some of the best Web sites for searching patents and trademarks worldwide.
For U.S. patents and trademarks, start at the source. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office provides complete, online access to both its patent and trademark databases, each accessible through a range of sophisticated search options.
For patents, the USPTO provides access to its database of issued patents, with full text starting from 1976 and full page images all the way back to 1790. It also provides access to a database of patent applications published since March 15, 2001. Search either database by patent number or by using Boolean phrases. A manual search feature allows you to construct more complex searches.
For trademarks, the USPTO's Trademark Electronic Search System - or TESS - allows anyone to search and retrieve trademark application and registration information via the Web, using the same text and image database provided to examining attorneys. TESS offers four options for searching: a basic search form; a structured-form search, the simplest for novices; an advanced free-form search, enabling users to enter more complicated searches; and "browse dictionary," allowing users to scan through the search indices to see indexed terms around a specific search term and providing the counts of occurrences for those indexed terms.
To search European and international patents, esp@cenet, hosted by the European Patent Office, is the gateway to a network of patent databases worldwide. The free service allows users to search published patent applications from more than 70 countries. Patent documents contained in the database are in their original language. Search them by publication number, application number, priority number, publication date, applicant's name, inventor's name, technical field, or title text. Results list full bibliographic details, plus an image of each of the pages.
The service can also be used to find English-language abstracts of documents in the EPO's in-house databases of some 30 million patent documents from throughout the world. Much of this data goes back to 1970. These searches display the bibliographic data and an English language abstract for each document. If available, drawings and full text are also provided.Private Search Companies
Originally created by IBM, the IP database at Delphion
was long available for free but now requires a subscription. It contains the complete text and images of all U.S. patents issued since 1971, as well as full images back to 1790. It also provides full text of all U.S. patent applications since March 2001.
In addition to U.S. patents, Delphion provides access to European patents. It includes European patent applications, with bibliographic text and images since 1979 and full text since 1987; European patents granted, with bibliographic text since 1980 and full text since 1991; Japanese patent abstracts since 1976; all publications issued since 1978 under the WIPO Patent Cooperation Treaty; the INPADOC patent collection from the European Patent Office; German patent applications and patents granted, with full text beginning in 1987 and bibliographic text and images from 1968; and images for Swiss patents issued since 1990.
Delphion offers a number of sophisticated searching and viewing options. A subscription for unlimited access to all the databases costs $200 a month. A $95 a month option is more affordable but restricts access to some of the databases to a pay-for-use basis.
A company that offers both patent and trademark searching is MicroPatent. Its PatentWeb provides full-text coverage of U.S. patents granted since 1836, U.S. published applications since 2001, European granted patents since 1991, European published applications since 1978, Great Britain published applications since 1916, German granted patents since 1989, German published applications since 1989, and Japanese published applications since 1976. Search full text for $95 a day, or search abstracts, bibliographic data and front-page drawings for $40 a day.
MicroPatent also hosts Trademark.com, accessible through the MicroPatent main page or directly at www.trademark.com. It allows full text searching of federal, state and common law trademark collections, as well as of top-level domain names and trademark files from Canada, WIPO, Europe and the United Kingdom. It also offers access to U.S. prosecution and trademark file histories. Other services include industry alerts and brand tracking. A 12-hour search costs from $50 to $100, depending on the scope.
The IP research company Thomson & Thomson offers Saegis, its soup-to-nuts trademark service. As the company accurately puts it, Saegis is a complete online workflow solution helping users manage everything from the initial screening of a name to the policing of a registered mark.
It begins with the screening tool Thomson calls Trademarkscan, which can create queries automatically or perform custom searches. Once you have screened a name, Saegis helps you search for online and common law uses of the name. You can then go on to order a full search from Thomson. Combining these results, Saegis provides various tools to help you investigate potential conflicts via the Web. The investigation done, it provides forms and resources to help you prepare your opinion for presentation to your client.
When the publishing company Wolters Kluwer in early 2000 purchased Corsearch Inc., a trademark research service, and merged it with its own CCH Trademark Research Corporation, the result was CCH Corsearch. It offers a variety of differently priced packages allowing users to search federal, state, Canadian and Mexican trademark data.
The patent searching service GetThePatent.com delivers complete USPTO and European patent documents to your desktop via your Web browser, using a compressed file format that speeds download time. It delivers patents as a single file containing all pages. Its database contains patent images for all USPTO, EPO and WIPO patents, as well as the national publications of Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Spain and Switzerland. It also contains the full text and bibliographic information for all U.S. patents issued since 1976.
GetThePatent offers several subscription options. Infrequent users can pay $2.99 per patent with no other subscription fee. A subscription of $19.95 a month permits 20 patents a month with extra patents $1.99 each. The most expensive package is $89.95 a month, which includes 150 patents.
QPAT-WW is a full text database of U.S. and European patents maintained by Questel-Orbit, an international online information company. It includes the full text of U.S. patents issued since October 1971, as well as full text European patent applications since 1978 and patents since 1991. It also includes PCT applications since 1978 and French patents from 1966. Its Pluspat provides access to more than 46 million patent documents, including English language abstracts for more than 12 million patents worldwide. The databases include full-page images of most of the patents. Prices are available only by contacting the sales office.
The Software Patent Institute offers free access to its database of software technologies. The database is unique in that it seeks to complement rather than compete with other online databases. In place of patents and current trade information, it compiles descriptions of software technologies from sources not readily available online. Source documents include computer manuals, older textbooks and journal articles, conference proceedings, and computer science theses. The database includes more than 104,000 excerpts from almost 1,500 documents.
STN on the Web, an online technical and information service for scientists, engineers and information professionals, offers access to a collection of more than 200 databases in science and technology, including several general and specialized patent databases. It is operated in North America by Chemical Abstracts Service, a division of the American Chemical Society. Pricing varies widely depending on the database being searched, but a full price list can be downloaded in Adobe Acrobat format.
For a good collection of links to Internet patent searching sites, try Patent Searching. It lists government and commercial patent sites, with descriptions of the type of information available at each and a useful chart comparing the coverage and features of each database.
Robert J. Ambrogi, a lawyer in Rockport, Mass., is author of The Essential Guide to the Best
(and Worst) Legal Sites on the Web, the second edition of which is available
E-mail him at rambrogi-at-legaline.com.