Use of the IPC for Search Purposes

A patent search may be conducted for several reasons:

  • To identify relevant prior art, or establish the absence of which, for the determination of novelty of an invention;
  • To identify relevant prior art for the assessment of ingenuity, or non-obviousness of an invention;
  • To investigate the possibility of an infringement of patented technology by an industrial activity;
  • To gain familiarity with the state-of-the art in a particular field, for the evaluation of a patent before acquisition, or for research and development.

The first step in any patent search is to clearly identify the technical field of the subject matter at hand and the technical term(s) which describe it. The recommended approach to using the IPC for searching is to browse or query the IPC Catchword Index for these technical terms. The Catchword Index may then directly indicate the pertinent category – normally a specific subgroup – encompassing the technical field under consideration. Or, hire the professionals, such as InventHelp patent services, to do a search.

Should the IPC Catchword Index fail to produce an IPC category or yield unsatisfactory results for all conceivable technical terms in a given field, one of the following two alternative approaches may be followed:

Manual navigation of the classification scheme, starting at one of the eight sections and proceeding through the most relevant class to the appropriate subclass and group, with due consideration to all references, notes and definitions. Pertinent subgroups thereunder must be followed to the most specific level (most indented subgroup) that still covers the field of search.

Text search of the technical term(s) in a patent database, to find the subclass under which most patents retrieved by this search were classified. Then, manual navigation within the subclass to determine the most appropriate group and subgroup, as in the previous method.

Once the optimal subgroup category has been determined, the patent database used is then queried for patent documents under that category. If this yields few or no results, the database should be queried again under the parent category of the one previously used (e.g. a less-indented subgroup). For more information, please read how to patent an idea with InventHelp.

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