Skip Navigation

This guide is no longer being updated. If you are not automatically redirected, follow the link to the new guide.


Searching for U.S. Patents on the Internet  

The website of the U.S. Patent and Trademarks Office offers all the tools necessary to do a comprehensive search for previously issued U.S. patents, from 1790-present. The website contains a database of the text and drawings for all issued patents. 

Please review the following limitations of patent searching on the Internet before proceeding with the step-by-step instructions:  

  • A patent search is not an easy task to do.
    If you are an inventor who will make decisions based on the results of a patent search, it is important to consider whether you want to attempt to do a patent search yourself. A thorough search could take many hours. You may want to consider hiring a patent attorney or a patent search firm. To perform a prior art search, the following research tools should be investigated: 

If you have any questions about this process, please call 207-581-1678 for information. We may suggest that you visit Fogler Library in person for a free, individual consultation. You may also use databases in Fogler Library that are not available through statewide access. If it is not possible for you to visit Fogler Library, we can send information by mail or you may want to contact the Maine Patent Program or an attorney in Maine registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.  

  • Searching patents that contain a specific word(s) almost guarantees that a searcher will miss several patents of interest.  Here's why: 

    a) You will miss patents of interest that do NOT contain your search term(s). There are many ways to describe the same product or technology. Especially searching by title is not recommended because patent titles are often very short and not descriptive. It is difficult to assemble a comprehensive list of all synonyms and keywords.
    b) You will miss patents of interest that were issued before 1976. Only patents issued after 1976 are searchable by keywords from the title, abstract and entire patent. You can also not search by inventor and company name before 1976.

  • For more information on the limitations of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Web Patent Database see the Important Notices page.

  • 7-Step Strategy recommended by the U.S. Patent Office for conducting a patent search at a PTRC.

Go to Step 1.

Return to the Fogler Library Patent and Trademark Resource Center homepage.


For more information, contact:
Martin Wallace
Science and Engineering Center
Patent and Trademark Depository
Raymond H. Fogler Library
Orono, Maine 04469-5729 
Phone: 207-581-1678

Created by: Martin Wallace | Revised: 12/23/2014

5729 Fogler Library
University of Maine
Orono, ME 04469-5729
Phone: 207-581-1661 | Fax: 207-581-1653
© Copyright 2000-2014
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469