USPTO Patents Search Templates

Posted by J Matthew Buchanan at November 8, 2005 11:33 AM


USPTO Patents Search Templates

This website provides access to templates describing search resources for the classified areas of science and technology found in the USPTO Manual of Classification. When completed, this version of the search template project will present almost 1,300 search templates covering the more than 600 USPC classes and subclasses.

Search Templates Defined

Search templates define the field of search, search tools, and search methodologies which should be considered each time a patent application is examined in that classification area. The templates describe search tools for U.S. and foreign patents and non-patent literature. Additionally, general Internet search tools used by patent examiners are listed.

The search templates are based upon input from patent examiners and other searchers at the USPTO and capture their institutional knowledge of the most relevant prior art search sources for determining the patentability of subject matter in the area of technology. The listed areas represent where (what resources) and how (methodology) most of the prior art considered in the examination process is found during the search process.


The templates provide more structure to the search activity and set a standard to measure the completeness of any search. Within USPTO, the templates will be especially valuable to new examiners. The USPTO also plans to use the search templates for a pilot program to outsource U.S. patent searches for PCT applications (Support for Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) Search Activity). In addition to the "where to search" information, the search templates provide important guidance on what tools and methodologies; e.g. structure searches (tool) and classified searching, respectively, should be employed in the search process.

Applicants can use the templates in formulating their own pre-examination searches prior to the filing of a U.S. patent application or the submission of a "Petition to Make Special" (based on MPEP § 708.02, subsection VIII. - special examining procedure for certain new applications - accelerated examination).

A long-term objective of this effort is to generate discussion, and ultimately consensus, with respect to what should constitute a proper field of search and use of search tools in conducting a search of various subject matters for purposes of the examination process at the USPTO.

Examiners and Search: Background

A patent examiner is responsible for reviewing prior patent documents, both U.S. and foreign, and other printed literature related to an application's subject matter during the examination process. This review, called the search, is performed by consulting the appropriate classes, and their respective subclasses, in the U.S. classification scheme, and classified and text searches of other patent document databases, or any other printed media (also known as "non-patent literature" or NPL), which might disclose the invention disclosed/claimed in a pending application for a patent. This search may include the use of various search tools or methodologies in the process. Once the search is performed, the examiner determines the patentability of a claimed invention in light of the prior art uncovered by this search.

When determining the appropriate field of search for an invention, the examiner must consider three sources of information: domestic patent documents, foreign patent documents, and NPL. The current requirements for conducting that search are set forth in the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) section 904.02. An examiner may not eliminate any of these resources from consideration unless the examiner can justify to a reasonable certainty that no more pertinent references will be found in a further search. Although the general guidance set forth in the MPEP is accurate, the search templates will provide additional information that expands upon the MPEP's general guidance. For each particular field of subject matter, the search templates will include what resources should be searched, and by which of the available search tools or methodologies. Detailed guidance on the choice and use of specific search tools are left to be established by each Technology Center (see MPEP § 904.02(b)).

Patent examiners are not required to search every listed resource in the examination of every application. Rather, relying upon their professional judgment and assessment of the disclosed and claimed subject matter in the application under consideration, the examiner will determine the most appropriate resources for that application. What the search templates provide is a compilation of the resources found to most frequently discover the most relevant prior art disclosures for the particular subject matter. Searching is highly dependent upon the experience and job knowledge of the individual performing and/or reviewing the search.

Public Comments on the Search Templates

Public comments on the search templates are invited. Comments should address the points enumerated in the Criteria for Evaluating Recommended Search Resources listed below. Comments can be submitted via the Search Template Project e-mail link on each template page or by mail addressed to:

Mail Stop Patents Search Template Comments
Commissioner for Patents
P.O. Box 1450
Alexandria, VA 22313-1450

Electronic submission is preferred. The Office will respond to comments in writing.

USPTO Criteria for Evaluating Recommended Search Resources

Recommended search resources must be publicly available. The databases and tools will be evaluated based on the criteria listed below. In your submission, please provide as much information as possible on the listed criteria:

  • Class/Subclass combination - Identify the class and subclass range for which you are recommending a resource.

  • Database/Resource identification - Provide the full name and other names (e.g. acronyms or shortened names) by which a database/resource may be identified; the name, address and phone number for the producer; the name, address and phone number for the entity that provides access to the database/resource.

  • Database/Resource scope - Indicate whether this tool is of general or specific use.

  • Content - Years of coverage of the database/resource; subject matter of the database; whether the resource is an abstract or full text database; and whether the bibliographic information includes documented publication dates.

  • Reasons for Recommendation - Specify the reasons for recommending the database for inclusion in the search template, focusing on the specific value of the content and search features of the database.

  • Accessibility - The database/resource must be publicly available. Indicate if there are any restrictions on hours of availability. USPTO must be able to obtain full-text copies of the cited art. The full-text must also be accessible to applicants.

  • Technical support - Availability of technical support and hours of availability.

  • Continuity - Describe the database policy on maintaining backfile data.

  • Mode of Access - e.g. online, web-based, stand-alone system.
Removal of Resources - The public can also suggest that resources be removed from the templates. In this case, the recommender should indicate reasons for removal that focus on coverage, search features, or accessibility.

Updating the Search Templates

The Office will provide periodic updates on the number of published search templates available and the status of the evaluation of public comments. The templates will be updated twice a year.

The search templates will continue to evolve as technologies and search tools evolve. The public will have an ongoing opportunity to comment on how to improve the templates. This process may require several iterations before there is general agreement on the contents of the search templates.

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