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Patents: Searching with FreePatentsOnline.com (recommended)

Information on how to find and access existing patents.

FreePatentsOnline.com

The USPTO's search engine, PatFT (Patents FullText) and AppFT (Applications FullText), are useful to professional patent researchers, but they're also unnecessarily complex requiring in-depth knowledge of Boolean logic and operators. Fortunately, FreePatentsOnline.com offers a much easier and quite comprehensive way to search for patents, both patents that have been granted and those still in the approval process.

Here's how to search FreePatentsOnline.com:

1. Go to FreePatentsOnline.com.

2. Click the down arrow next to the blue "Search" button and choose "Quick Search."

3. Scroll down to the "Common Fields" box. Enter a few terms that describe your item or process. In thi case, we'll use the example of a laser-enabled lawn mowing device and enter "lawn," "laser," and "mower."

Scroll to the bottom of the page and hit "Search." It's in the last box on the page. You can also use this box to narrow your search by years, by patent type (granted or pending), or from certain countries.  Additionally, "Word Stemming" will search for permutations of words ("mow," "mowing," etc.), so you should leave it on. For now, let's try leaving the search parameters as they are, and just hit "Search."

4. 1,256 results. (Looks like lots of people are trying to use lasers to cut the grass.) Let's look at the fourth entry, a "Reel type laser lawn mower." Click on the name of the device to review the full patent document. (Unfortunately, FreePatentsOnline.com accepts advertising, so you might have to scroll down for the full patent listing.

5. You may find the PDF document a little easier to read. Scroll down for the full patent record, look for the link to the PDF document, and click.

6. And here's the PDF of the patent. One advantage FreePatentsOnline has over the USPTO is that it includes PDFs of patent documents. The USPTO generally supplies the text of patent documents but not the PDFs, and several clicks are required to get to the documents from the initial search interface.