The Definitive Guide To Google Patents Search

 In Patent Invalidation, Patent Prosecution

If you are planning to conduct a free patent search and want to try your hands on Google Patents, you landed on the right page. This is one of the most comprehensive guides ever written on the web on Google Patents Search.

Even if you have already used this free patent search engine and are at intermediate level, this guide will, for sure, have something for you. It will teach you how to use Google Patents so that you would be able to locate some patent references that can help you conduct a patentability search or other kind of patent searches on your own.

The table of content below will give you a gist of what we have for you in this guide. Also, you can click on a specific heading to jump to a particular section.

  1. Why it’s important to learn how to do a free patent search?
  2. Why Google Patents Search?
  3. Search Techniques- How to do a Free Patent Search on Google Patents
  4. Additional Tips to Make Google Patents Search Awesome
  5. Limitations of Google Patents Search

A friendly suggestion: If even after using the information in this article, you fail to find documents of interest, it is highly recommended to visit a pro. A professional search has simply no comparison to a DIY free search. Further, after finishing this guide, don’t forget to go through the list of 7 tips to use Google Patents to its full capacity. Here is one such link for your help: 7 Tips To Unlock Full Potential Of Google Patents

Why it’s important to learn how to do a free patent search?

You could be an entrepreneur or an inventor. You or your team may have come up with something great. You see the potential in your invention to earn you millions! So you visit a local patent attorney with your invention for consultation.

The attorney suggests you get a patentability search conducted and shares the amount of money on average a patentability search will require. Being an entrepreneur or inventor, you are looking to cut cost. Also, you have heard that in some cases finding a prior art uses to be easy if a search is done right.

In such instances conducting a free patent search on your own gives you two benefits. First, it helps you save money if you find a reference closely matching with your invention and second, it helps you get familiarized with the type of prior art that exist already.

Thus, no matter whether you want to save money or want to make a go or no-go decision with an invention, knowledge of conducting a prior art search on free patent database always come handy.

Because it’s free?!

That’s one advantage but there’s more to Google than the freedom to conduct searches without having to shed a penny.

Though there are other free patent databases as well in the market such as Espacenet, Patentscope, and the like. However, the results displayed on these databases are not so user-friendly, and a user has to do a lot of clicking and “open in new tab” for information that is otherwise readily available for the user’s disposal on the interface of Google Patents.

For example, Google Patents gives the user an option to blow up the figures of a search result if at all the user wishes to focus on the figures of the different patents. A similar feature is not provided by other free databases like Espacenet, Patentscope, and USPTO PAIR.

How about Paid Databases?

Now, paid databases like Patbase, Orbit, Derwent though have a lot of features to offer and are the ideal databases to conduct searches, it is to be noted that the cost of licenses for these databases is not something that an individual inventor would want to invest on.

Also, it is simply impractical to purchase a license for performing one or two searches.

Of course, there is always an option to visit a patent attorney, but if it is not viable (for certain inventors), Google Patents is last and the best resort.

Apart from being free, Google Patent has certain advantages over paid databases, listed as follows:

  • User-Friendly Interface – The interface of Google Patents is so sleek & intuitive that it comes as a surprise that a service like that is being offered for free;
  • Fast – The results are obtained within a fraction of seconds;
  • Easily shareable results;
  • Legal Events information – The sequence of the legal events is very systematically provided; and

(Source)

  • Presentation of information – The way the patent is displayed makes it very easy to study, with the claims provided on the left-hand side of the screen and the description provided on the right.

(Source)

I thought I should let you know that this guide is going to be considerably long and there are chances that you may have to come here again to check how a particular feature works. Hence, we thought of creating a PDF version which you can use offline as well. Further, we have given due consideration to make it print friendly. You can download it by filling the form below:


Search Techniques – How to do a Free Patent Search on Google Patents?

Searching on Google Patents is not very different from searching on Google. Like in Google, a user is provided with a search bar in Google Patents as well.

In this search bar, the user can enter either a number of a patent publication of interest or s/he can enter the technology or the topic of interest in which s/he wishes to see what has been patented so far.

This is the “Simple Search” feature of Google Patents.

On accessing the website, patents.google.com, the user is provided with the following interface:

The above interface is the “Simple Search” interface of Google Patents. In this search bar, one can type the publication number of a certain patent application, or one can perform a general search on a particular technology.

For example, I am interested in studying the patent publication US20150217229. I enter the publication number in the search bar and click on the suggestion presented.

On clicking, I am presented with a display which depicts all there is about that particular patent publication; right from the filing dates to claims to legal events that occurred in the lifetime of that particular patent publication.

Suppose one does not have a particular patent publication number, and he only wishes to study what patents have been filed in a particular field of technology. To that end, one can type the technology or the topic of interest in the search bar and click on the suggestions.

Google patents will provide a list of patents that it finds to be relevant to the searched query. For example, I wish to look up patents on “Exhaust gas re-circulation in petrol engines”. So I type the exact same words in the search bar.

For this search, Google Patents considers Exhaust gas re-circulation & petrol engines as two different sets of keywords and gives the following results:

Now, I can browse through the results and see if I find anything interesting.

How to Use Boolean Operators in Google Patents?

Boolean operators are the soul of a patent search. It is the usage of the Boolean operators which can either make or break the search. Boolean operators can be understood as the mortar which holds together the keywords of a patent search. Some of the Boolean operators which are primarily used in the patent searches are listed below.

‘AND’ – The And operator is used to search a set of words from which each and every word of the query is present in the searched results.

‘OR’ – The OR operator is used to search a set of words from which at least one of the words of the query is present in the searched results.

‘*’ – The * operator is used to search different forms of a root word, e.g., abut* includes all the different words which begin with “abut” like abutment, abutting, abutted, and so on.

‘+’ – The + operator helps in searching stopwords.

‘-’ – The – operator removes a certain word from a phrase and only searches the remaining word. For example, if I frame a query as ((engine)-diesel), the results of the query would include patents on engine devoid of the word “diesel” in the entire document.

‘Near’ – The ‘near’ operator is a proximity operator to boost the score of documents if they contain expressions near each other. NEAR, NEARx, NEAR/x, or /xw means matches are a maximum of x words away, in any order.

‘WITH’ – The ‘With’ operator is also a proximity operator whose usage is the same as the ‘near’ operator and searches for the search term within the next 20, in any order.

‘SAME’ – The same operator is another proximity operator which searches within the next 200 words, in any order.

‘AJD’, ‘AJDx’, ‘ADJ/x’, ‘xw’ – These are also proximity operators which are the same as NEAR, but matches must be in the same order.

A typical search string for studying NON LINEAR SWITCHES along with relevant images is provided below to give an understanding of how to use the different operators mentioned above.

(CL= (((((switch* OR nonlinear OR (non linear) OR PWM) NEAR/6 supply) NEAR/10 (parallel)) NEAR/12 (linear OR analog)) AND (convertor OR converter))) OR (TI= (((((switch* OR nonlinear OR (non linear) OR PWM) NEAR/6 supply) NEAR/10 (parallel)) NEAR/12 (linear OR analog)) AND (convertor OR converter))) OR (AB= (((((switch* OR nonlinear OR (non linear) OR PWM) NEAR/6 supply) NEAR/10 (parallel)) NEAR/12 (linear OR analog)) AND (convertor OR converter)))

The search terms in the above strings are a switch, nonlinear, PWM, supply, parallel, analog, and converter. It is the use of the Boolean operators which gives it a particular structure. Further, the aforementioned search terms are searched in the claims (CL), title (TI), and the abstract (AB) of the patent documents.

The use of the different search parameters is described in the subsequent sections of this article.

Legal Status

The Legal status of a particular patent document is provided in “Legal Events” at the bottom portion of the page of that patent document. Have look at the bottom portion of the page for this link.

This feature is so helpful in getting the legal status. Otherwise one has to search the documents on websites like USPTO PAIR or Espacenet and enter the file wrapper to find the legal status.

Google Patents Advanced Search

Another type of search using Google Patents is the “Advanced Search”, which can be accessed using a separate link provided (patents.google.com/advanced) on the Google Patent interface, as can be seen in the following image:

 

As can be seen in the above image, many search fields are provided for the user to search for desired patent applications. Each and every search field is used differently for different kinds of searches. The significance of the different search fields listed and discussed below:

‘Search Terms’ – All the keywords to be entered here;

‘Before priority/filing/publication – Allows the user to enter the priority date, filing date, or publication date. This feature allows the user to look for documents which have been either filed, or published, or have a priority date before a certain date. One use of this feature is in invalidity searches where the searcher has to look for documents which are published before a certain date;

‘Assignee’ – Allows the user to look for patents which are filed by a specific person or a specific company. It basically allows the user to keep track of the patent filing activities of that person or company;

‘After priority/filing/publication’ – Allows the user to look for patent documents after a particular date. This feature is mainly used in “Freedom to operate” searches;

‘Inventor’ – Allows the user to look for patents which are filed by a specific inventor. It basically allows the user to keep track of the patent filing activities of that inventor;

‘Patent Office’ – Allows the user to look for patents in specific jurisdictions. Google Patents allows the user to search for patent documents from 17 jurisdictions, which are as follows United States, Europe, Japan, China, South Korea, WIPO, Russia, Germany, The United Kingdom, Canada, France, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, and The Netherlands;

‘Languages’ – Allows the user to search for documents in 14 different languages;

‘Filing Status’ – Allows the user to look for only applications or only granted applications;

‘Patent Type’ – Allows the user to only search of utility patents or only design patents;

‘Citing Patent’ – Allows the user to look for patent documents in the examination of which 1 particular document has always been cited;

‘CPC’ – Allows the user to search patent documents in a particular CPC.

A typical advanced search is provided in the images below to give an idea of how setting certain parameters can affect the number of results obtained in a particular search query. We will take an example of the search string provided previously for the ‘non linear search’.

Without any restrictions provided, and only with keywords used as search parameters, the number of hits obtained in the above search is over 15000. Now let’s see what happens if I add a restriction of a particular jurisdiction to this search.

As can be seen, adding some meaningful limitations to the search can really optimize the time required in finding the relevant documents.

The explanation of the different kinds of restrictions provided by the different search parameters has been explained above. A smart searcher always uses the different search parameters in the most efficient manner to get the most relevant results.

For example, one awesome method to narrow down the search result is to add a relevant CPC classification to the keyword search. The CPC classifications are given to the patent documents by the patent examiners, and as such, classify the inventions/patents in the most concise manner. So adding a CPC class to the search only helps in filtering out irrelevant patent publications from the search results, thereby leaving you with only the most relevant results.

Additional Tips to Make Google Patents Search Awesome

Google never fails to awe. The same is true for Google patents where the attention to smallest details makes it amazing. Some cool features that I have personally come across and really appreciate about Google Patents are listed below:

The Highlights– Oftentimes while searching, you might be looking for some keywords in the description of the patent publication. So what do you do?

Obviously, use the “ctrl+f” feature of the browser, right?

Wrong! Not when you are using Google Patents.

What you do is that when you come across the word of your interest, you just click your mouse near that word, and then drag the mouse over that word in the clicked position.

Voila! Google patents will hide the irrelevant description and show you all the places in the patent document where that word has appeared. The images below illustrate my point.

Now I have found a particular patent.

In this patent, I am interested in finding the word “vibration sensor”. So I do what I have written above this is what I get:

Cool huh?

Patent Citations and Cited By

This feature gives the user ready links to all the documents cited during examination stages, as well as for how many patent examinations was the document in question cited. This is a really cool feature as it gives the searcher the examiner’s point of view, as well as helps the searcher in finding relevant prior art.

Similar Documents

I don’t know how many times I’ve been saved by this feature.

This feature is provided right below the “Cited by” section. I feel that this feature is actually helpful. I have found the most relevant prior art for certain searches from this feature.

Limitations of Google Patents Search

There are many features of paid databases which Google Patent fails to offer. One such feature is the multiple highlights (highlighting more than one keyword at a time).

Another issue with Google Patents is that Google does not take the responsibility of certain data presented on the website, which is understandable. However, in critical searches, the user has to visit the patent websites of different jurisdictions to confirm the details such as priority dates, assignee details, the latest publication for a particular application, and the like.

Regular updates are also an issue as most of the times the patents have been made available on the official website of particular jurisdictions but the same cannot be found on Google Patents. Whereas, the same data will be easily available on any of the paid patent databases.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Google Patents is a great tool for those who are looking for basic searches such as novelty or general search just to know the state of the art. There are certain limitations, as stated in the previous sections. But the database is open source, and one can easily overlook them if the nature of the searches is not very critical.

There is a very high possibility that you may find the documents of interest when you use Google Patents. However, that is the extent to which you can use Google Patents. What is also important is to properly interpret the patent document, which is a job left for the pros. The advantage of using Google Patent is that you will have reduced the attorney’s charges.

Furthermore, if you do perform a search for days together, and still do not find relevant documents, it is an indication of either one of the two things:

  • that you have invented something that is going to disrupt the market; or
  • Your search was lacking.

In either of the two cases, it is highly recommended that you seek the guidance of a professional!

Happy searching!

One more thing! Before we say sayonara to each other, I have another recommendation to make. My colleagues have compiled a long guide on how to use Google Scholar for patent and legal research. I feel it could be highly relevant to you as well. Do have a look. Here you go: Google Scholar Guide 

Showing 19 comments
  • Sri Alexander Valarino
    Reply

    Use it almost on a daily basis; Even though Google it’s just doing a ‘scrape,’ the links are really handy. Thanks

  • Dr. Aleš Mihelič
    Reply

    Thanks for very interesting reading.

    • Nitin Balodi
      Reply

      Glad that you liked it, Dr. Aleš. Do you want me to send PDF your way!

  • Joana Catarina Mendes
    Reply

    Thank you for preparing the guide. Could you send me the pdf version? Thanks in advance!

    • Nitin Balodi
      Reply

      Sure, Joana. We are working on the PDF version. I’ll ping you when it is ready!

  • Giacomo Benvenuti
    Reply

    This way, after providing to Google all kind of information on people private life, you will also give Google all kind of information on what topics are hot and what patents are under investigation in your company. Good luck to all!

  • Philip
    Reply

    I’ve been trying the advanced search, looking particularly at claims. If I enter CL=(photodiode ADJ blue) I get 2554 hits. But none of the claims, at least in the first two hits I tried, come close to having these two words, or similar words, adjacent to each other. Any suggestions?

    • Gaurav
      Reply

      Hey Philip,

      Thanks for bringing this to notice. Actually, there are two proximity operators in patents.google.com. I will illustrate both of them with an example.

      The first is NEAR operator and it goes like CL=(Photodiode NEAR4 Blue) and it will cover patterns like “Blue colored Photodiodes”, “Photodiodes which emit blue light”.

      The second one is ADJ which is also similar but only searches in one particular order. CL=(Photodiode ADJ4 Blue) will cover patterns like “Photodiodes which emit blue light” but not “Blue colored Photodiodes”, since the order of both keywords is reversed.

      Also notice the number 4 after ADJ. I guess if you run ADJ alone it will simply search for pattern such as “Photodiode Blue” which, I personally cannot see being used as such anywhere.

      One last thing before I leave, patents.google.com, by default, groups the presented results on the basis of their classifications and not their relevancy. You can turn that option off on the results page itself and you will find results with relevant patterns on top.

      I hope this helps!

  • Cynthia Bouças Teixeira
    Reply

    Hi Nitin, I think searching on this platform is quite easy, but when I used it I had to go to other platforms to complete the patent search.

  • Dusan
    Reply

    I have too many results to my search.

    When I tried to limit search by saying it has to be in Claim CL or Title TI for easier check, number of records was not reduced significantly.
    Even more surprising was that adding * to search term has limited number of records, instead of increasing by synonyms.
    I am becoming quite lost in here

    • Shabaz Khan
      Reply

      Hi Dusan,

      I can understand that you’re facing problem with the syntax of the search string. If it is possible, could you share your search string with me? Perhaps, after having a look at it, I may be able to pinpoint the issue.

      -Shabaz

  • Arvind
    Reply

    Hey, Is there a way that I can read multiple patent information using the patent numbers that I have? It will be really useful for me to read about multiple patents with that single search. I have the numbers that I want to search but don’t want to go back to the search screen and look for the new patent information

    • Shabaz Khan
      Reply

      Hi Arvind,

      I’m sorry but that is not possible with Google Patents, the UI doesn’t support multiple patents on single screen. However, I do have a solution for your problem. Once you know the keywords and classifications you want to focus your search on, head over Lens.org. Lens is a free, secure patent database, much like Google patents, expect it has some advanced features which are great for in-depth searching like the one you’re trying to perform.

      After searching on Lens, on the search result page, you will see the “expand all” option at the right top of the list. (It will be a blue arrow pointing downwards). Clicking on it will expand all the patents on this page which will help you analyse them right there and then without opening each one individually.

      Hope it solves the issue.

  • Charlene
    Reply

    Hello, I have a quick question. What is the difference between “Active” and “Pending” in the Status Column under “Family”? Does it mean the same thing or different?
    Thank you!!!

    • Shabaz Khan
      Reply

      Hi Charlene,

      “Active” means that the patent is granted and is alive at the moment while “Pending” means that it is currently in its prosecution phase and not yet granted.

      Check this patent application for example – US20180288739A1 – The most recent application is pending but other family members are granted and hence have the status of “Active”. If you click on any of those family members, you’ll see the “Grant” status right next to their name.

      Hope this clears thing up.

  • Richard Jefferson
    Reply

    Hi Shabaz,

    One of the most prominent issues of Google Patents that you may wish to bring to the attention of users is ‘Big Brother'” . every click you make, every link you take, they’ll be watching you. Anyone (legal professionals, patent searchers, innovation-based companies) who values privacy should be aware that Google’s entire business model is predicated on driving you into their ecosystem (try exporting thousands of patents? not an option) and then monitoring every bit of your user journey.

    Google and privacy are antithetical. Google and open are antithetical. They are free only in the financial sense. If one cares nothing about being an unpaid Google employee while using the service, and don’t mind that your every move is followed with extraordinary measures, its fine.

    Or you could try Lens.org. We have been operating 24/7 for almost two decades as a public resource; we collaborate with NIH NCBI, Genbank & PubMed, Crossref, USPTO, WIPO, EPO, ORCID and many other public resources.

    The list of Lens.org capabilities is pretty substantial, and the list of the advantages to professionals to whom free of cost is not the only parameter, likewise. I hope your readers try it and consider whether privacy, integrity, a rich user experience based around real-world work flows and being in control of your creative journey matters.

    Thanks

    Richard Jefferson

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