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University of Texas Libraries
Celebrating the Life

Patent Searching

  1. Purpose and Instructions
  2. Introduction
  3. Brainstorming
  4. Index Search
  5. Classification Codes
  6. Classification Definitions
  7. Patent Review
  8. Keyword Searching
  9. Conclusion


Patent searching is an iterative task.

To do a good patent search, you must determine how your invention works, NOT how it would be used. For example, an improvement on an automobile switch will be found with other switches, not with automobiles. Why? Because even though the invention might be used in an automobile, the improvement relates specifically to the switch.

When you don't find similar patents, try again. A good patent search will take many hours.

It is very difficult to prove a negative.

Patents are issued for new, original, non-obvious technologies. If your invention is truly original, you won't find it already patented. However, you should be able to find related solutions.

Note: If you don't find any similar patents, it doesn't mean there aren't any. Examine your invention again—how does it REALLY work? Remember, patent searching is an iterative process, so keep looking.

Patent language is difficult.

Patents describe a new technology so that it can be protected by a legal document. This means that patents consist of three types of language:

  • legal
  • technical
  • merely descriptive

The most difficult language is the "merely descriptive." Why? New, original technologies do not have accepted keywords yet, so the invention must be described. For example, the phrase "Four rectangular uprights supporting a planar surface" describes a table. See what I mean?

Lawyers serve a purpose.

The best advice is to see a patent attorney after you have diligently searched the patent files and have determined to the best of your ability that your invention idea is:

  • new
  • patentable
  • marketable

Good luck! Feel free to contact the Engineering Library for additional help with searching patent files. Sorry, we can't give you legal advice.