A recent post of mine on LinkedIn was a simple invitation to enroll in the Patent & IP Searching Class in the UCSD Extension IP Law Certificate Program.  The post received a significant number of reads, making me think that posting some searching tips might be helpful, without your having to enroll and commit to a class.

How many of you go straight to Google and start typing key words?

To you I say, “STOP THAT!”

You need a structured, reproducible approach with a structured reproducible search engine.

Experience shows that Google patent searches are not always reproducible and, in many cases, can be dependent on your other searching behaviors.  You should choose a search engine that is specifically designed for patent searches.  And you should have documentation to be able to repeat the search when the client needs an update.

There are many commercially available engines as well as free ones.  They all use essentially the same data sets but you can get some nice workflow features if you pay for the database.

Searching is both a structured skill and a skillful art.  And, while learning the skillful art can take time and practice, the structured skill is easily taught.

Here’s my proven 10-step recipe for a good search.  (You’ll notice that the actual searching doesn’t come until step 5 – and for good reasons.)

1.  Determine purpose of search

Answer these questions:
What kind of search do you need to perform?
What is the purpose of the search?
What will the results be used for?
Who will get the results?
How much time, effort, and money should be allocated to the effort?

2.  Gather the necessary data to conduct the search
3.  Determine which databases need to be searched
4.  Develop a search strategy
5.  Perform a search
6.  Evaluate the results
7.  Modify the strategy
8.  Repeat the search
9.  Analyze and Summarize
10.  Report the results

For more complete descriptions of each of these steps, links to search engines, and for some useful forms to help you document what you did, download the [download id=”12103″].   There’s no obligation.  Just send me a note if you find it helpful.