Skip to content Skip to navigation

Performing a Basic Prior Art Search

Guidelines for Patentability
A technology may be patented if the invention is new, useful and non-obvious to one of ordinary skill in the art.

The "prior art" (i.e., the body of knowledge existing prior to the invention) helps determine whether or not the invention is "new" and "non-obvious." Thus, it is important to know and understand the prior art so that one can make distinctions between the prior art (what is already known) and the invention (what is new).

Performing a Basic Prior Art Search
Inventors can perform basic prior art searches to see what knowledge (usually in the form of patents) already exist in the invention's scientific area. A basic patent search involves the following steps:

  1. Accessing PatentScout. PatentScout is a patent search interface designed by Innography. Anyone with a Stanford email address can use it to access this database. The site allows you to do a keyword search or a semantic search and to filter the results by patent office, filing status, active/expired and date. You can also create session-specific folders with your search results and download PDFs of published applications and/or issued patents.
  2. Accessing a publicly available patent database. Google patents can be used to search and read the full text of patents from around the world, and find prior art in Googles index of non-patent literature. The USPTO website is another reasonably user-friendly patent database.
  3. Performing a search based on keywords that would logically be within a summary statement of a patent. If you use Delphion, just click on "Advanced Search" and insert your first keyword or combination of keywords. Then check the boxes for every type of patent (since you're trying to find all existing patents that contain that keyword). Repeat this step for various combinations of keywords until you think you've found the relevant existing patents and patent applications.
  4. Skimming patents and patent applications that you found. By skimming the first pages of each patent or patent application you can eliminate a majority of the records from your search.
  5. Reading the patent and patent applications in detail. Once you've re-read the patent applications that seem relevant to your technology, feel free to contact OTL or call (650) 723-0651 to discuss your findings with a member of our licensing staff.