In Part 1 of this two part article, we looked at the basics of conducting your own free worldwide patent search using the free patents database, Espacenet, which is available from the European Patent Office. Although no search is ever definitive, before you spend any money, Espacenet is an excellent place to start if you have a new idea or invention.
However, you may find that your search terms or phrases are returning too many irrelevant results. For example, you may be searching for ‘cell’, but just consider how many variants may be returned with such a broad term: a plant cell, animal cell, battery cell, cell phones, integrated circuits having cells. The list is enormous and thus it may be far more difficult to focus your search results to those that are most relevant.
So how do we narrow or focus our search? Well, if you have at least one result that is in the general field of interest or technology, then this leads us to a possible ‘Classification Code’. In the example that we used in Part 1 of this article, we were searching for a bicycle saddle idea. Typing ‘saddle’ into the Advanced Search page in the Abstract or Title box returns more than thirty seven thousand results – far too many for us to ever review.
However, assuming we are looking for ‘bicycle saddles’, there is a result on the first page (red circle):
And this takes us to the possible Classification Codes. See the blue circle in the image above, under CPC.
The CPC codes are generally linked, although sometimes the links seem not to work. The international patent classification (IPC) codes right next to the CPC codes are not linked at all. Let’s use the CPC codes to focus our next search, and if the link is not operating, simply type the CPC code into this website: www.cooperativepatentclassification.org/search.html?queryString=B62J&submit=Search. Otherwise, clicking on the first linked code ‘B62J1/00’ opens up a description of that field, as shown here:
You can therefore see that the classification ‘B’ is for ‘transporting’, ‘B62’ then focuses this to ‘land vehicles’, and ‘B62J’ further limits the field to ‘cycle saddles’. Following this, ‘B62J 1/002’ further restricts the field to ‘saddles having a seating area with a central cavity or depression’.
So, from this list, you can start identifying where your specific idea or invention lies. By clicking any of the red codes on the left, you can skip between fields to locate your required area of search.
Now, armed with your code, return to the Espacenet search page. Insert your code (similar to ‘B62J 1/002’ for example, if you have created a new more comfortable bike saddle) in the ‘IPC Classification’ box. Keep the other boxes blank. Click ‘Search’. Many results will come back, but do they look similar to field of your idea. If YES, then hopefully your search is now in the right area, AND you have far fewer prior patent documents to deal with, in this case being 384.
Assuming we now have the right field or at least a similar field, repeat the search but this time insert one or two general words in the ‘Title or Abstract’ box also whilst keeping the CPC field code. These words should broadly define your idea or the uniqueness of the idea. In this example, we may want to restrict our search in this particular category to ‘pressure’ in the ‘Title Or Abstract’ field if you have created a bicycle saddle which reduces pressure when seated. Search again.
You can see that we now have a very manageable 20 results in the field of B62J1/002 with the term ‘pressure’ in the Title or Abstract of the prior patent document. These twenty documents can now be reviewed for relevancy.
Repeat this search process with the other CPC classification codes, if you’ve found more than one. In the above example, you can see that these patents are also classified in B62J1/007, and B62J1/08.
Following this search strategy, if nothing of relevance is found, try ‘tweaking’ the CPC code. Simply remove the last digit or two. So in our example above, B62J1/002 becomes ‘B62J1/00’. In this case, we now double the number of results which also have ‘pressure’ in the Title or Abstract, but it is still manageable to review these prior patents.
From B62J1/00, we can then broaden out to B62J1 whilst still keeping ‘pressure’ in the Title or Abstract field, and so on.
Don’t forget, if you feel the Classification field is correct, then you can play with your Title or Abstract terms, changing ‘pressure’ to ‘relief’, ‘comfort’, ‘padded’, ‘support’ and the like. Using a Thesaurus to help you identify search terms is beneficial.
STILL HAVING TROUBLE?
If you have found nothing similar or, after having read the above, have no useful codes to rely upon, then you need to manually search for the likely classification code of your idea. Use the Classification Search (see the red circle on the left below). Enter a couple of generic words (e.g. ‘bicycle saddle’) which broadly define your invention in the ‘Search for’ box (top centre). Click ‘Search’. A list of possible Classification Codes are returned for you to review and try in the above search strategy.
⇒ Also see our brief article and video on The Dangers of Cheap Patents.