Inventors who plan to file a patent application must determine, first, whether someone else has patented their invention, or whether their invention will violate another's patent. Historically, conducting a patent search was difficult and time-consuming, because several tools were available from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO, or PTO). However, the patent searching landscape changed drastically as of October 1, 2022.
The PTO gave inventors plenty of notice. On December 1, 2021, the PTO launched its next-generation computer searching tool, called the Patent Public Search (PPS). This tool operates much like a modern search engine.
Ten months later, on October 1, 2022, the PTO retired the four prior tools, which are longer accessible. The PPS is now the PTO's exclusive computer searching tool.
The PPS replaces:
The PPS uses the familiar keyword searching method, and you can search by patent number, or by class and subclass of patents (patents are organized into groups, or classes, based on their common subject matter). How far "back" you can search varies:
You can use the PPS at PTO facilities and remotely over the Internet. You can access the PPS and training materials at https://ppubs.uspto.gov/pubwebapp/static/pages/landing.html.
The PPS is covered in Nolo's Patent It Yourself, 21st Ed. by David Pressman and David E. Blau.
For more information on searching patents online, see Patent Searching Online.
For more information on patents generally, see Nolo's patent page.