I figure that more than one of us clerks has been asked to research on the cheap for one of our boss’s clients.  I wanted to share a list of the tools that I find useful and why.  Not only could these tools be useful to the patent clerks out there, but I figure the general public might find it interesting on how to do research on the cheap.

Remember that the goal of this kind of research is not to “leave no stone unturned,” it is to find the few items that support your point.  If you really want to “leave no stone unturned,” you’re going to pay for it and likely rely on Westlaw or Lexisnexis.

  • Freepatentsonline – This is the place to do some searching and get your patents in pdf form for free.  They keep adding new features like saving patents you’ve looked up in a porfolio.
  • Findlaw – The research tool that points you in the direction of free legal resources.  Many legal resources are for free and just need to be found.  Findlaw is a great directory for these resources.
  • Google Patent Search – If you’re looking for specific terms in patents, google patent search will actually highlight the term in the patent itself.  Finally I can see the context of the term I want in the patent.  I’ll actually use this with the paper copy in front of me.
  • Google Search – Google not only crawls legal websites, but the free court documents and various legal repositories.  Once you’ve narrowed down your “terms of art” (terms of art mean specific words with special legal meaning) you can mine a ton of legal treatises through google.  Oftentimes you’ll have to use quotes to make sure the words are found together like “patent invalidity”

These are the ones I can think of, off of the top of my head.  I’ll have to do a part II when I can think of the others.