Read this tip to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Searching US Patents and other Invention topics.
There are a number of ways the US Patent and Trademark Office can help you search a patent database. You can go to Alexandria, Va. and visit the Patent Search Room or you can visit a designated US Patent and Trademark Depository Library, which are located around the country. You can also search for patents directly on its website at uspto.gov. A newer patent search option offered by the office is called the Patent Application Information Retrieval System (PAIR). You can find out about this unique way of accessing information about a patent at uspto.gov/ebc. At any given time, some patent applications are published and some are not. There you will also find toll free numbers and an email address to help with your search questions.
If you decide to visit a depository library, you can also obtain some technical help. Sometimes, even though searching in these ways is free, people hire patent attorneys or patent agents to help them search. This will cost money but may be worth it. If you miss certain types of key words in your search, you may miss large numbers of patents that could have relevance to your claim. Patent attorneys and agents have significant knowledge of the US patent classification systems so they can sometimes conduct a more thorough search than you can alone.