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I'm trying to do my own patentable idea search but noticed that an idea might appear in the USPTO granted/assigned patent database as well as their patent application database.

How can I perform a comprehensive search; must I search both, which will return mostly duplicates?

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  • Note that not only patents and published applications may be used against your applications. Anything on the subject published anywhere, in any language, at any time before your filing is fair game. My instructor for the patent bar uses an example that cites the bible talking about making bricks with mud and straw in order to show an invention to be not novel.
    – George White
    Jun 20 at 2:03
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No - Unlike other organizations with patent databases, the USPTO maintains these as two different databases. Published applications - appft and issued patents - patft.

This is due to historic reasons. Patents have been issued for hundreds of years but applications have only been published for decades. At the USPTO you will need to run any prior art search separately on each of these sites.

The same application can cause a hit on both databases if an application is published and granted.

They are likely to not be identical since claims are often amended during prosecution. Also not all applications are published and it is rare but possible for a patent to be granted before it’s application is published. And not all applications generate issued patents.

Applications are automatically published at the 18 month point unless a non publication request was filed by the applicant. In that case there will not be a publication of the application. On the other hand it is possible that there are two publications of the application at the applicants request after an amendment is made.

If a patent is granted the patent is “published”, of course. In the event the patent is granted in less than 18 months it will be out before the date of publication of the application, if any.

Non publication requests require the applicant not to do any filing outside the U.S.

Google patents, Espacenet, The Lens, PatentScope and all other databases, both free and commercial, that I'm familiar with do not separate these categories.

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  • Thanks @George White. So the answer is actually "yes" to 'Must I search both for my idea?'
    – kackle123
    Jun 20 at 2:45
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    @kackle123danceswithMonica You don’t have to search the official USPTO sites. The other options George White suggested also search foreign patents and applications which are just as important for prior art.
    – Eric S
    Jun 20 at 3:20
  • Perhaps my question wasn't clear. When I separately search both databases on USPTO.gov for keyword "X", I am seeing a given patent appear in BOTH the granted patent database and the patent application database, that is, the inventor filled out an application AND THEN was granted a patent. Am I understanding this mechanism correctly? (Please disregard Google, prior art, etc., for now.)
    – kackle123
    Jun 21 at 18:23
  • Yes - at a time when the application has published and the patent has been granted it will show up in both places. They are likely to not be identical since claims are often amended during prosecution. Also not all applications are published and it is rare but possible for a patent to be granted before it’s application is published. And not all applications generate issued patents.
    – George White
    Jun 21 at 18:54
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    @kackle123danceswithMonica Applications don't publish until 18 months after filing. Thats why you can't know every application that might end up being prior art. I'd like to reinforce that searching just the USPTO sites is not, in any way, adequate to determine the patentability of your invention. That is why using Google Patents, or even better The Lens makes more sense. They pull information from the sam USPTO sites you are using and also from nearly every other country's patent sites as well.
    – Eric S
    Jun 26 at 1:43

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