Read this tip to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about United States Patent and Trademark Office and other Invention topics.
If you are searching for patents prior to 1976, the only way to do so online is by patent number. If you have a product that you want to do some research on, you can often find the patent number right on the product, the box it came in or in its manual.
You will recognize it because it looks something like this:
Utility Patent: 5,226,120
Design Patent: D488,297
By typing the patent number in the box provided on the search page, users will obtain access to a data sheet that contains the abstract, bibliographic data (such as, for example, the name(s) of the inventors, the entity that owns the patent, and the filing date of the application), the references that were cited in the application, and a listing of all of the claims of the patent. A copy of the full patent, with drawings, can be accessed by clicking on “Images” at the top of the data sheet.
Searching by product number is not the best way to find out if your invention has already been patented. But, if you want to look at similar inventions to see how they wrote it, what claims they've made and see their drawing, searching by patent number is very direct.