You may think that you don’t need to know how to do a patent search as a creator of educational products, but you do. If you are making an educational game, you’ll want to check to see if there is a U.S. patent that already exists for your game idea.
Now, don’t let this scare you! If you come up with unique game designs of your own, it’s very likely that they aren’t patented. But if your game idea copies another game already in existence, then you’ll want to do a bit of research before you consider publishing so that you don’t violate any patent, copyright, or trademark rights.
Note that I’m not a lawyer so I can’t give you any legal advice. I am just pointing you in the right direction for getting information.
Today, I’m going to show you where and how to do a patent search so that you can see if your game idea has already been patented.
Let’s begin by looking at what a patent is. The definition of a patent according to the USPTOis this:
A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Now, let’s look at how to do a patent search.
The USPTO has a seven step strategy for searching for a patent. Here it is:
- Brainstorm terms to describe your invention based on its purpose, composition and use.
- Use these terms to find initial relevant Cooperative Patent Classification using the USPTO website’s Site Search box (www.uspto.gov). In the Site search box found in the top right hand corner of the home page enter “CPC Scheme [plus keywords(s) describing invention]”; for example, if you were trying to find CPC Classifications for patents related to umbrellas, you would enter “CPC Scheme umbrella”. Scan the resulting classification’s Class Scheme (class schedules) to determine the most relevant classification to your invention. If you get zero results in your Site Search, consider substituting the word(s) you are using to describe your invention with synonyms, such as the alternative terms you came up with in Step 1. (If you continue to be disappointed with the CPC Classification search results, look for your search word in the International Patent Classification Catchword Index http://web2.wipo.int/ipcpub/#¬ion=cw (link is external); CPC is based on International Patent Classification).
- Verify the relevancy of CPC classification you found by reviewing the CPC Classification Definition linked to it (if there is one).
- Retrieve U.S. patent documents with the CPC classification you selected in the PatFT (Patents Full-Text and Image) database (http://patft.uspto.gov). Review and narrow down the most relevant patent publications by initially focusing on the front page information of abstract and representative drawings.
- Using this selected set of most relevant patent publications, review each one in-depth for similarity to your own invention, paying close attention to the additional drawings pages, the specification and especially the claims. References cited by the applicant and/or patent examiner may lead you to additional relevant patents.
- Retrieve U.S. published patent applications with the CPC classification you selected in Step 3 in the AppFT (Applications Full-Text and Image) database (http://appft.uspto.gov). Use the same search approach used in Step 4 of first narrowing down your results to the most relevant patent applications by studying the abstract and representative drawings of each on its front page. Then examine the selected published patent applications closely, paying close attention to the additional drawings pages, the specifications and especially the claims.
- Broaden your search to find additional U.S. patent publications using keyword searching in PatFT or AppFT databases, classification searching of non-U.S. patents on the European Patent Office’s Worldwide Espacenet patent database (http://worldwide.espacenet.com (link is external)) and searching non-patent literature disclosures of inventions using the free electronic and print resources of your nearest Patent and Trademark Resource Center (http://www.uspto.gov/ptrc).
Get more details about this seven step strategy here.
There you have it. That’s how to do a patent search on the USPTO website. You may want to bookmark or pin this page so that you can reference it later. Also, feel free to share it with others who need to know how to look up patents.