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Frequently asked questions

Getting started

Legacy systems Pub EAST and Pub WEST are old technology. Patent Public Search was created to replace these systems with a single, more robust online platform that provides the public access to search tools used by patent examiners.

We do not know when the Public Search Facility that houses Pub EAST and Pub WEST will reopen.

On November 3, 2021, a soft launch of Patent Public Search included testing and feedback by the Patent and Trademark Resource Centers. Testing and feedback continued until the official launch on December 1, 2021. In October 2022, other searching platforms (i.e. Pub EAST, Pub WEST, Pat/FT and App/FT) will be retired and replaced with Patent Public Search.

Patent Public Search supports most of the same searching syntax of Pub EAST and Pub WEST (i.e. Boolean operators, Proximity operators, Indexes, and Wildcards). The Patent Public Search's landing page links to training materials for the tool.

The Patent Public Search page lets you enter a search statement using a specific syntax (search statement format). Enter your query (search terms) in the Search query box. If you’re searching for more than one term, you’ll need to use an operator. If you don’t enter an operator between two terms, the operator selected in the Default operator box is used. For a field-specific search, please refer to the searchable indexes found in Help.

You can let a long search query wrap, or press <Ctrl + Enter> to insert a line break for easier reading.

The Quick Search layout provides a simple layout if you just want to run a search and view search results and documents. However, you may insert other options from the main toolbar if you prefer.

The Advanced Search layout provides a four panel view with all panels activated by default. Some display options are only available in the Advanced Search layout.

You can find more information in Help or read through the Training materials.

Accessibility

The accessibility options give equal access to web content and services for all people, including those with visual and mobility impairments.

The accessibility options include:
  • Textual information provided through operating system functions for displaying text, such as voice to text.
  • An on-screen indication that moves among interactive interface elements as the input focus changes.
  • Information about user interface elements, including the identity and state of the element, are available to assistive technology (e.g. screen reader software).
  • Keyboard shortcuts make typing easier or more accurate for those who have motor control difficulties.
  • Screen reader software can read and announce everything that is happening on the computer.

Yes, the screen reader shortcuts are compatible using Patent Public Search.

When Patent Public Search is used with a screen reader, all menu options, icons, links, and buttons are announced so that you can navigate the application.

Patent Public Search works with Chromium based browsers (e.g. Google Chrome, MS Edge, Brave, Vivaldi, etc.) and Mozilla Firefox.

Document Viewer

In Document Viewer, select the gear icon to use the Document Viewer user preferences to customize the font type, font size, text color, background color, and hit terms display location. Also, when the document is in Image view, you can adjust the zoom setting through the Document Viewer user preferences or by using the zoom drop-down (percent icon) on the Document Viewer toolbar. You can also change the appearance of the document’s image by selecting the Invert color icon on the Document Viewer toolbar, selecting Fit to width for the image, and rotating the image left/right.
document viewer user preferences

When the Document Viewer user preferences window is open, the first tab that opens displays Hit Terms options. Selecting the drop-down menu beside Highlight Display will provide the options of top, center, and bottom. Each selection will change where the highlight is positioned for a hit term found using the Find Within functionality on the Document Viewer toolbar.

There are two ways to control the information displayed in the text view. You can select specific document sections for display from the Document sections drop-down indicator, which has All sections selected by default. Or, you can toggle on and off specific metadata using the Show and hide metadata button on the toolbar.

Like the Search Results grid, the text view of the Document Viewer has a Highlight bar, where you can toggle the hit term visibility and off. Selecting the Highlights button on the Highlight bar opens a Highlights Details window where you can adjust the visibility and colors of highlighted terms.

KWIC stands for Keyword in Context. When the KWIC button is selected, it limits the information displayed from the document to paragraphs that include terms from the search string.

The open, close, and open-close quotation mark buttons perform citation searches. Selecting these buttons will populate the search box and execute the corresponding citation search for the current document.
  • The button with an opening quotation mark executes a backward citation search for all documents cited by the document being viewed.
  • The button with a closing quotation mark executes a forward citation search for all documents that cite the document being viewed.
  • The button with both quotation marks executes a simultaneous forward and backward citation search.

citation search

The zoom drop-down allows you to choose a setting for image magnification of document images. Valid settings range from 5% to 200%. You can also use the Fit to width button to scale images to the width of your Document Viewer. You can use the Fit to window button to scale the image so that the whole page is visible. If you prefer to view images at a specific size, the default zoom can be set under images in the Document Viewer user preferences.

Currently, this feature is unavailable.

Currently, this feature is unavailable. However, you may press and hold numbers 1-3 and 7-9 of the keyboard numeric keypad to manually auto-flip document images. You can view the keyboard shortcuts list.

Yes, when viewing the document as an image, you can right-click on the image to Add Note or add Highlight Only. Selecting Add Note opens a new window where you can optionally enter text in the Notes Text field, select Tags, enter Related Claims, and select the color of the notes marker. Upon clicking Add, the note will be added with the selected-colored-marker. The Highlight Only option adds the marker, without text, with the selected color.

When you select Advanced Find options from the Document Viewer and select Display and include hidden fields and sections, the Document Viewer shows all fields and sections which have the search terms. In some cases, this would require showing fields and sections which do not have KWIC hit terms but has the term searched. For this reason, Search disables the KWIC button when this Advanced Find option is selected.

Display customization

The workspace is a layout page where you can search and review search results, which has multiple panels.

If you zoom in at a high percentage (e.g. 200%), because of the limited real estate on a screen, you may not be able to see one or more panes in a panel. Use the panel dividers to resize any panels so that they are visible. You can also select F11 to expand or contract the window to full screen mode or normal screen mode. NOTE: If your keyboard has an F Lock key, ensure that the F Lock key is activated–press the F Lock key on the keyboard (location of the button will vary on keyboard) to activate or deactivate the F Lock key.

Some pop-ups are best viewed at 100% or less. If you find that after zooming in, you are missing buttons for a pop-up or pane, try zooming out until you can see the command buttons. If you are missing the buttons within Search, try closing the Databases section and turning off the option for Show Errors to enlarge Search without changing other panes within the workspace.

A panel is a location that holds one or more panes within the workspace. A workspace may have multiple panels depending upon which workspace layout you select.

Within the workspace, you have the ability to resize or hide panels by simply dragging the panel resizing dividers along a panel’s border. You can resize panels regardless of the type of workspace layout selected. Panels can be collapsed into buttons or hidden. In the three panel workspace layout, there are two indicators that divide the workspace. You can select these to close a panel so that the other areas have increased display room.
When a panel is collapsed, it becomes a pane. The pane will display how many panes are open inside the panel and their names. You can select anywhere in the pane to re-display the collapsed panel.
By moving the mouse over the indicator and holding the mouse button down, you can adjust the size of the panel by sliding it to the left or right. There are also north- and south-oriented panels which are controlled in the same manner, this time by sliding them up or down.

Currently, saving a workspace is unavailable.

In the workspace window, only Document Viewer can be duplicated. Each Document Viewer can be set to display a different format of the same document, such as text view and image view. Up to three Document Viewers can be opened.

Yes. This can be accomplished by clicking and dragging the borders of the main workspace window to expand or shrink it.

Your user preferences can be set at a pane level. Preferences can be chosen by selecting the gear icon or A icon in their respective toolbars.
Search HistorySearchDocument ViewerSearch ResultsHit TermsHelpTagged DocumentsNotes Viewer
Hit termsXXXX
ImagesX
FontsXXXXXXX
ColorsXXXXXXX
Document NavigationX

Changes to the highlighted search terms are available from the text Document Viewer. The search terms are highlighted above the text of the document. They can either be a single color (default in Quick Search or multi-color (default in Advanced Search).
If you wish to turn off the highlighting of a particular search term because it is a term that is less critical to see in the text, clicking on the highlighted term above the text of the document will turn off the highlighting for that term.
highlighted terms In the above example the search term, club is no longer highlighted within the text of the document.
Using the button to the right, Highlights will display all the highlighted terms with a box displaying the color of the highlight. Clicking in this box allows you to change the color of the highlight.

To increase or decrease the size of the document image in the Document Viewer, use the zoom function dropdown button located in the Document Viewer toolbar. This button looks like a percent sign (%) icon.

You can modify fonts in the workspace within individual panes. To change text font and size, click on the User preferences icon in the toolbar. The User preference window will pop up. In this window, select Fonts to access font preferences.

A color theme sets the background and text colors for the workspace. To change the color theme, select User preferences, select Colors, and then select Custom Colors. Select your preferred Text Color and Background Color. Some items from your selection of Custom Colors, such as family-filtered groups and fields with links, may be difficult to see. If you run into visibility or contrast problems, try using a different color from the custom colors.

Patent Public Search allows you to set options for queries, operators, and search databases. To change the search options, you can make changes for specific searches settings, such as Databases and Default Operator from Search.

Highlighting

By default, highlights for hit terms are turned on. You can turn off highlights for specific hit terms by selecting the term in Search Results or the Document Viewer. You can also turn off highlights for all queries by setting Highlights to None in Search Results.

By default, highlights for hit terms are turned on and in the Advanced Search, are set for multiple colors. Multi-colored highlights assign a color to each hit term found for a query. These colors are system-assigned but you can specify a particular color of one or more terms by selecting the Hit Terms button in Search Results or the Highlights button in the Document Viewer.

To change the color of a highlight for a hit term from the Search Results, select the Hit Terms button. You can then scroll to the desired hit term or use the filter text box to find the desired term. Select the color swatch to open the color selector and pick a new color. Select Search Results to see the change.
To change the color of a highlight for a hit term from the Document Viewer, select the Highlights button to open a Highlights Detail window. You can then scroll to the desired hit term or use the Find Highlight filter text box to find the desired term. Then, select the color swatch to open the color selector and pick a new color. Select the Close button to see the changes in Document Viewer and also reflected in the Search Results.

You may want to change a group of terms to the same highlight color.
To change the color of a highlighted term from the Search Results, select the Hit Terms button to go to Hit Terms. You can then use the filter text box to find the desired term and its variations. Next, select the color swatch and select a new color. All the terms displayed will be changed to this single color. To see all the hit terms, clear the filter field. Select the Close button to see the changes in the Search Results.
To change the color of a highlighted term from the Document Viewer, select the Highlights button to open a Highlights Detail window. You can then use the Find Highlight search box to find the desired term and its variations. Next, select the Apply this color to hit terms below from the color swatch and select a new color. All the terms displayed will be changed to this single color. Select the Close button to see the changes in the Document Viewer, which are also reflected in the Search Results.

In the Document Viewer Text view, select the Highlights button to open a Highlights Details window which has a checkbox labeled Toggle Filtered Terms. This checkbox allows you to turn off or on the highlights for all of the terms listed. You can filter the list and then toggle visibility for just the terms listed. Use this option to quickly turn on or off highlighting for multiple hit terms at once.

Highlights can be turned off for a specific search query, overriding the default preferences. To do so, in Search enter the search criteria and go to the Highlights option to change the setting to None. When the search is performed, none of the terms will be highlighted. To return to the default setting, select the Clear button in Search. Remember that the Clear button will restore all your default search settings, so if you change other options, these will also be reset.

Keyboard shortcuts

Patent Public Search has most of the keyboard shortcuts of prior search systems, however they are modified to address advanced functionality in a search. Please see Full list of shortcuts.

Managing workspaces

To create a new workspace, select the New button. Data in all of your panes will be cleared and will not be recoverable. However, the locations and user preferences of each pane will remain unchanged.

Currently this feature is unavailable. However, you can click the Print icon in Search History, Search Results, Document Viewer, Tagged Document, and Note Viewer to print your work history.

Locate Search in the main workspace. Search can also be found in the toolbar as a magnifier icon, along with other buttons. In Search, enter the desired search terms in the text box. Select the Search button to execute a search.

To find more information on search syntax, use the Help located near the Search Results. Help contains information on basic search, wildcards, Boolean searches, proximity operators, field specific searches, sorting by relevance, as well as User Interface (UI) controls and stop words.

The option to Show Errors is on by default. If you want to turn off Show Errors in Search for the current search query, deselect the Show Errors checkbox next to the Highlights option. Selecting the Clear button will clear the search textbox and will reset the Show Errors checkbox.

When the option for Plurals is turned on, a search will return hits which include plurals for each term. For example, a search for widget returns widget and widgets, or a search for company returns company and companies. Plurals can be turned on/off for an individual query at the bottom of Search by selecting the checkbox.

When the British Equivalents option is turned on, the search will also return hits for any different British spellings in search results. For example, a search for color returns colour as well. British Equivalents can be turned on or off for an individual query at the bottom of Search by marking the checkbox.

You can make more room to view your search query by the following methods:
  • Minimize the Databases section.
  • Uncheck Show Errors.
  • Resize the panel containing Search.
  • In Search layout, minimize the Search Results pane using the down arrow between the Search pane and Search Results pane.

Search history

The Search History includes a list of previously run searches for the workspace. This information includes a unique identifier (L number), the number of results found, the query text, databases searched, operator, search options, and the date and time of the search. You can select the L number to add the unique identifier to the search text box in order to create a new query, or you can rerun the search immediately by selecting the underlined text in the query column. You can also delete search results and restore them from the trash or print the current search results, resize the text, and run a text search within the Search History. As with all panes in the application, the columns can be shown or hidden, reordered, resized, and sorted.

The L number represents previously executed (Prior Art) search queries.

Yes. To rerun a search query immediately, you can select the L number to add the search query (identified by its unique identifier) to the search text box, or select the underlined text in the query column in order to create a new query.
When you select the L number in the search text box, it will expand to display the full query.

To print your search history, select the Print icon in Search History. You can select any search queries you want to print.

You can search for additional keywords within Search History to find searches where the keywords are present.

Yes. To restore search queries:
  1. Find the desired item in the Trash section of Search History.
  2. Select the Restore from Trash icon in the Actions column for the search query.
  3. The restored items displays in the Prior Art section of the Search History.
Note: After search queries have been deleted from the Trash section of Search History by selecting the Permanently delete icon, the permanently deleted search queries cannot be recovered.

Yes. You can move the columns by dragging a column to another column position. To sort the column headers, select the header to present the metadata information in ascending or descending order.

Search results

Search Results lists the documents found for a search query. The Search Results header displays sorting options, highlights, document counts, and metadata for the listed documents. The Settings button presents a drop down menu allowing you to turn off and on metadata information for the listed documents.

The number of documents for a search query displays in the dark grey bar in Search Results next to the search query identifier (L number). Search results are grouped by Family ID. The number of families for each search query is shown in parentheses in the dark grey bar.

To view a document, double-click anywhere on the row of Search Results. The document will be displayed in the text and/or image mode in the Document Viewer.

To tag relevant documents, select one of the numbered columns and check the checkbox. This will now represent that the document is part of a tag group. There are 26 tag groups in Patent Public Search. You can also use keyboard shortcuts using the Numpad (Numeric Keypad) to tag a document for tag groups 1 through 26. Once a document is tagged, it can be untagged or moved between tag groups. You can go to Settings to show additional tag group columns.
Keyboard shortcuts for tagging are:
  • * on the Numpad: Selects document for tag group 1
  • Ctrl + * on the Numpad: Removes document from tag group 1
  • Alt+Numpad: Selects document for tag groups 1 through 9.
  • Ctrl+Numpad: Removes document from tag groups 1 through 9.
  • Alt+Numpad 0: Tags document to tag group 10.
  • Ctrl+Numpad 0: Removes tag document from tag group 10.
  • A-Z: Selects the document for tag group for tag groups 1 through 26

Select the Print icon to print documents in the Search Results. You can select one or more documents to print. The Print icon will open a Print Search Results window allowing you to further specify settings for printing the document.

Yes. You can reorder columns by dragging a column heading to another position. To resize a column, move the cursor to the right of the column header until the cursor changes to double bars with arrows (similar to Excel) and then select and drag the column width to the desired size. To sort the column headers, select the header to ascend or descend the metadata information.

To toggle between showing and hiding metadata information in the Search Results, go to the Settings button and select a metadata item to show or hide in a column of the Search Results. In addition, you can use the + in the columns headers or right click on the column headers to toggle the metadata items between showing or hiding columns in the Search Results.

To modify and view all hit terms, select the Hit Terms button or select the Hit Terms tab. Hit Terms displays all hit terms with hit counts and highlight colors. You can modify a single term color or a color for a group of hit terms or deselect the Visible checkbox to hide selected highlights.

No. Search results will list 500 documents at a time. To view documents over 500, scroll down to the last document, the system will auto load the next 500 documents.

The + column displays the number of documents sharing the same Family ID. When the +1 or +2 button is selected, the additional documents display below the preferred document and the + symbol changes to a - symbol. Selecting the button when it is a - symbol hides the related documents and changes the symbol back to a + symbol.

The Find Within field allows you to search for any words or characters within the metadata of the Search Results.

Tagged Documents

In the Search Results or the Document Viewer, the first five tag groups (1-5) are visible by default, and the remaining tag groups can be added from the Settings metadata toggle. You can tag the document by selecting the checkbox for the desired tag, or by using the keyboard’s Numpad (numeric keypad). Keyboard shortcuts are:
  • * on the Numpad: Selects document for tag group 1.
  • Ctrl + * on the Numpad: Removes document from tag group 1
  • Alt+Numpad: Selects document for tag group for tag groups 1 through 9.
  • Ctrl+Numpad: Removes document from tag groups 1 through 9.
  • Alt+Numpad 0: Tags document to tag group 10.
  • Ctrl+Numpad 0: Removes tag document from tag group 10.
  • A-Z: Selects the document for tag groups 1 through 26

Tagged Documents displays all tagged documents within the workspace.

The data for all views can be toggled on or off from the Settings metadata toggle. Columns can also be turned on using the + icon on the far right of the header.

Currently this feature is unavailable.

You can double click on a column head to sort documents in ascending or descending order by the column.

You can select the Create L# for All Tags button at the top of the Tagged Documents to execute a search containing all tagged documents from all tag groups.

You can print all of the tagged documents using the Print icon in the toolbar. You can select specific rows from different tag groups using the checkboxes on the left under Actions. You can print selected rows using the Print icon on the Tagged Documents toolbar.

In order to remove tags from all documents, you can use the Remove All Tags button on Tagged Documents. You can select the trash can icon in each row to remove specific documents. You can also uncheck the columns for tag groups to remove that document. Alternatively, tags can be removed in the Search Results by unchecking the tag checkboxes for the desired tags.

Technical concerns

Patent Public Search is designed to work with Chromium based browsers and thus you may experience display issues when using other browsers.

Currently Patent Public Search does not support smaller screen sizes of mobile devices and tablets