Finding patents of interest

when you see something in the news or are looking at the competition

This is an update to a post in 2015 about finding patents of interest. Attached is a “How to find patents” in pdf format from my course at Johns Hopkins on “Legal Aspects of Biotechnology”. Just click to download. It walks through the basic search strategies for finding patents and visualizing their global patent families using a great, free patent repository “”. This site is also a great source for keyword searchable text.

Related Post: How to search the text of a patent and why would you want to do that?

How to search the text of a patent

and why would you want to do that?

Often it’s very useful to be able to search and find key words through the text of a patent. I do this to find examples of particular intended uses or formulations, for instance to see if a stem cell patent contemplates cellular therapy or if a chemical formulation might be administered via an implantable device. It’s also a quick way to find the places where dosages are discussed. These findings help determine the potential scope of a patent or sometimes even whether or not it’s likely to be valid or enforceable. These can be important dimensions of a competitive assessment.

US patent

However, the pdf versions of the patents and patent applications that you’ll typically find in the databases generated by the US Patent and Trademark Office (US PTO) or the other major world patent offices like, for instance the European Patent Office (EPO), are pdfs of images rather than of text based documents.

While I like to use a pdf to highlight and to read more quickly than a text document, when I find a patent that I need to save for my analysis, I generally also download a text version. For instance, in today’s other post about finding patents for a competitive landscape study, I discussed U.S. Patent No. 7, 736,205, the full text of which is here on My usual modus operandi is to cut and paste it into a MS Word document or a text editor, my favorite of the latter being nvALT (by Brett Terpstra) on the Apple platform. If I forget the text download, it’s also usually good enough to OCR the pdf to create a text layer. Typically, I’ll use PDFPenPro for this, again on the Mac ecosystem.

Related post: The part of competitive assessment about finding patents on pharmaceutical products

Why asking questions is essential to success

particularly when you think you already know the answers!

Active listening (also know as reflective listening) is a fundamental approach to understanding another person’s concerns in any conversation, whether it’s a negotiation about material transfer agreements or research partnerships or hear-to-heart about daily relationships. It extends beyond just asking questions and notably includes repeating what you’ve heard. The speaker knows they’ve been heard and can correct or fine-tune their message. Another great technique called appreciative inquiry is a communications technique that envisions possibilities and works toward best outcomes. Together, these techniques go beyond trying just to find what’s wrong and then fix it. Combined, such techniques are important to successful innovation management and are also powerful productivity tools.

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One of my favorite TED talks is by Ernesto Sirolli, a compelling advocate and consultant of economic and community development. He talks about his experiences in international development. And shares a very funny story about hippos who like to eat tomatoes. His experience is a great reminder to ask questions, listen actively and don’t presume to know the answers.