I am considering prior art searching (and provided results) based only on non-paid databases (Google, Espacenet, etc), as opposed to paid databases?

Would a careful search in non-paid databases be sufficient (despite being more tedious)?

  • I tend to rely exclusively on Espacenet and Google Patents, since for me they are a lot easier to use than any paid equivalent I've tried (and so I'm not sure I'd agree on it being more tedious). They seem just as good too, since the underlying search set is the same (being primarily US patents, with Chinese and Japanese secondarily). The key downside to me is that you have to separately search for non-patent literature.
    – Maca
    Feb 1 '17 at 21:31
  • Also, I have proposed an edit to the question to make it an answerable question (and therefore seemingly more appropriate for this site), rather than just an invitation for opinion. Because it's an interesting point, and I'd hate to see it closed. Hopefully that's ok, but please do rollback if I've gone too far.
    – Maca
    Feb 1 '17 at 21:34
  • Thank you Maca, I tried to make it "answerable", but I am not experienced in posing questions here ;) I am working with subsciption-databases, provided by my company. But I have used Espacenet too, quite a lot. Chinese patents tend to delay to show up in Espacenet and google, usually a few weeks. The subscription database provides it almost instantly. But that's not a big deal for me, I am often running updates. Espacenet's problem is that it gets stuck with too many results and it might simply not load further pages... Feb 2 '17 at 7:06

This is opinion based and I'm an inventor, not a patent attorney. I have done my fair bit of patent searching. In my previous job I've used both Micropatent and Totalpatent both of which are paid services. In addition, I've used the USPTO site, Espacenet, Google Patents and The Lens. I'd say in general the free sites are just fine. The Lens is especially nice in that you can register which allows some additional features like saved searches. Prior art searching is broader than just searching for patents, so don't ignore other useful sites like Google Scholar. I'd like to add the disclaimer that whether a search for prior art is adequate goes beyond the tool being used to search. Professional patent librarians use additional techniques such as classification codes to ferret out prior art that might not use standardized keywords.


The U.S. Patent Office offers several sources of guidance for conducting preliminary patent searches at the U.S. Patent Office databases:

https://www.uspto.gov/video/cbt/ptrcsearching/ https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/support-centers/patent-and-trademark-resource-centers-ptrc/resources/seven https://www.uspto.gov/sites/default/files/documents/7_Step_US_Patent_Search_Strategy_Guide_2015_rev.pdf

These are quite useful and embody the techniques that professional searchers use. They can also be applied at least in part with searches at the Espacenet database as well.

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