How to complete a UK patent search

A patent is a type of intellectual property that can be registered to protect the rights of how a new invention works or the method of creating it. The owner of a patent has the right to prevent others from making, using, importing or selling the invention without prior permission.

Whether or not you feel that your idea is unique, it’s a good idea to double-check and make sure it has never been patented before. There are many free databases available online that you can use to carry out a full UK patent search that includes applications and patents pending; also referred to as ‘Prior art or novelty searching’.

Before you delve too deeply in the available databases it’s important to identify the ‘inventive step’ in your idea. What makes it better, cheaper or different to similar ideas already in the public domain? Be sure to write down all the relevant keywords and synonyms that could be used to describe your idea to improve the depth of your patent search.

Below is a list of some of the available free and commercial national and international databases you can utilise to search for patents relating to your idea:

Intellectual Property Office (IPO) – Ipsum
The IPO’s free online service, Ipsum, allows users to check the status and access data on all UK patent applications; whilst obtaining copies of available documents from the open part of published patent applications after 1st January 2008.

Using Ipsum it’s possible to view up-to-the-minute information on patents, see which classifications and fields of search have been used and submit observations regarding the patentability of a published patent application prior to a full patent being granted (under Section 21 Observations).

Separate IPO lists exist for published Green Channel patent applications, patents with a licence of right (that can be licensed for use) and patents no longer in force.

Additionally, the IPO’s patents journal features all the information of new UK patent applications, as well as amendments to the register.

Espacenet
Espacenet and the European Patent Register provides free access to more than 70 million patent documents from across the globe. It features comprehensive data on inventions and technical developments from 1836 to the present day.

It’s possible to search Espacenet using the following parameters:

  • Patent number
  • Patent classification
  • Inventor or applicant name(s)
  • Keyword(s)

Note: It’s also now possible to conduct a patent application search in the Espacenet databases using a mobile device.

Patentscope
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) database allows you to search 52 million patent documents, including 2.9 million published international patent applications; as well as regional and national patent collections from 38 participating authorities.

There are three core methods of searching the Patentscope database:

  • Simple search
    Here, you can submit keywords in six different fields to get the most relevant results for your search, including names, dates and ID/number.

  • Advanced search
    The ‘Advanced Search’ functionality allows users to submit an unlimited number of keyword combinations. Queries containing field codes and Boolean expressions or keywords can also be searched for in this advanced mode.

  • Field combination search
    Using this interface you can perform a more targeted search using specific search criteria in any search field e.g. title, abstract or description.

If you’re thinking of filing a patent application but you’re unsure of whether your idea is unique or how to use the free web databases available to find granted patents and patents pending, the Business & IP Centre can help. Sign up to our ‘Patents Searching’ workshop, geared to innovators and entrepreneurs, equipping you with all the tools you need to protect your ground-breaking ideas.


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