How do I start?
Getting a toe-hold can be the hardest part. Here's what I suggest if you just don't know how to get started:
- Use a keyword search to start with a broad list of potential patents. Use the quick search (or Google search) and leave the dropdown set to all fields.
- Pick a match that looks close. You might need to read many abstracts!
- Get the "Current U.S. Class". This is the main classification of the patent.
- Go back to the quick search and enter the classification "48/111" for example. Change the dropdown menu to "Current US Classification".
- Now you'll see all the patents sharing the same major classification.
- Here's the Gotcha - go back to the results for step 1 above. If you look up many of the patents you'll see that two patents that seem similar might have different major classifications. More work for you!
Every patent has exactly one major classification, but they may relate to many, many other classifications as well.
For example, consider the patent for this methane digester. The major classification is 48/111. Knowing the major classification of a patent will enable you to browse through similar patents or to browse through the classificaton system in search of more precise matches. With that in mind go to the USPTO search page and enter 48/111 in the search box. In the drop-down menu select "Current US Classification". There should be quite a few similar patents.