The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) grants three basic types of patents: utility, design and plant. The PTO publishes patent applications to the public every Thursday. These provisional patent applications have generally been pending for 18 months prior to their release and are not yet approved. In addition to the PTO’s website, third-party online services, including Google Patents, provide patent application copies.
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Online Search
Visit http://portal.uspto.gov/external/portal/pair. The PTO allows the public to search for and view provisional patent applications in HTML format. Be sure to enter the exact CAPTCHA phrase to gain access to the search engine.
The PTO allows you to search using the following queries:
Application number: Two-digit code followed by a six-digit serial number.
Control number: Two-digit code followed by a six-digit serial number.
Patent number: Eight-character number, although the format varies based on the type of patent underlying the application.
PCT number: Can be entered in either the old (14-character, two-digit year and five-character sequence number) or new WIPO formats (17-character, four-digit years).
Publication number: Four-digit year, followed by a seven-digit sequence code, followed by a two-character kind code that is assigned by the PTO. Do not include the "US" prefix.
Complete your search using the search options provided to return the patent application in HTML format. This format can be printed or saved to your hard drive.
Google Patents Search
Visit the website, http://www.google.com/patents.
Enter your search parameters using the main search box. Where appropriate, be sure to use search operators, such as AND, OR and quotation marks.
Search using Advanced Search by selecting the "Advanced Patent Search" link to the right of the main search box. Google offers an array of search options, many more than the PTO website. On the Advanced Search page, you can input a query based on keywords (both included and excluded), patent number, title, inventor, assignee, U.S. classification code, international classification code, document status (you will need to check "application" to limit your search results to applications only), patent type, issue date and filing date.
If necessary, refine the returned results using the search filters on the left-hand side of the results screen.
Click on the blue hyperlinked text of the title of the patent application that you wish to review. Google gives you the options to read the patent in your internet browser, download a PDF copy of the patent or hyperlink to additional patents referenced by the current patent. Google also provides a link to view the patent application in the HTML-version available on the PTO website.
Other Methods for Requesting Applications
Request an application by mail. Include the publication number for the application in your correspondence and payment for the appropriate fee, as specified in the fee schedule provided in the references section below.
Mail correspondence and payment to:
Mail Stop Document Services Director Of United States Patent and Trademark Office PO Box 1450 Alexandria, Virginia 22313-1450
Allow ample processing time for your request to be received and processed. Details about processing times and payment information can be found at the PTO website.
Request an application via fax. Fax the request--along with credit card information, electronic fund transfer, or deposit account authorization for the appropriate fee, as indicated in the statute discussed below--to (703) 305-8759.
Request an application in person. The PTO will not release a pending application that was published to a member of the public in person without written authority, known as a power to inspect. However, if the application has been abandoned, the application may be available for public inspection and copying through the File Information Unit (FIU). The FIU can be reached via telephone at (703) 308-2733.