Patent family information is available at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (Office) primarily through commercial databases. See MPEP § 901.05 regarding patent family. Examiners have access to this information either directly through the automated search tools such as the Examiner’s Automated Search Tool (EAST) and the Web-based Examiner Search Tool (WEST) or indirectly through the search services of the Scientific and Technical Information Center (STIC). Additionally, Examiners may utilize the Common Citation Document website accessible through the Examiner’s Toolkit to obtain patent family information.
I. AVAILABLE DATABASES
Derwent’s World Patents Index (WPI) and International Patent Documentation Center (INPADOC) are two databases used for retrieving foreign patent information.
The WPI database is loaded in-house at the Office and is integrated with the Office’s automated search system. WPI in-house is used whenever abstracts are needed or when searches in addition to publication date or patent family are required, such as searches on inventor name or IPC (International Patent Classification). WPI in-house is also the first choice for searches for publication dates or patent families because of its ease of use and low cost.
INPADOC is used for quick searches for publication dates or patent families. The Office enjoys cost effective rates for INPADOC due to an agreement between the Office and the International Patent Documentation Center (now part of the European Patent Office) negotiated several years ago. The agreement applies only to INPADOC as accessed directly on the INPADOC computer in Austria, not to INPADOC as available on other commercial database systems such as ORBIT, DIALOG, or STN.
II. ACCESS TO FOREIGN PATENT INFORMATION
Patent examiners may directly search WPI in-house or INPADOC or both.
Examiners may also request foreign patent searches through STIC. For STIC services, see MPEP § 901.06(a), paragraph IV.