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In this section "how to make a patent search" is explained in detail with a practical example:
Technology and machines to make glass hypodermic syringes.

HOW TO MAKE A PATENT SEARCH

Patent search is made whenever you want to learn about a technology. It may be performed either at a patent depository library or on line.

A list of "patent and trademark depository libraries" (more than 80 in August 2001) may be found at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's related site.

At a patent and trademark depository library (PTDL) you can reach all U.S. patents issued since 1790 until today. A PTDL may provide you with the copies of the patents registered in foreign countries too.

Online service is being provided by U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), European Patent Office (EPO), some countries' patent offices and by some private companies.

For example at Delphion's site the text and images of the U.S. patents issued since 1971 are available. Some recently issued foreign country (major industrialized nations') patents may also be reached there too.

At PTO's site the text and images of the U.S. patents issued after 1976 and images of the patents granted between 1790 and 1976 are available.

"Text" means that the text of the patent is available in electronic form. Practical meaning of this is that you can perform "keyword" search on such patents. "Images" means that the pictures of the pages of the patent are available, that you can see the drawings and read the text. Patents that are available only in image form won't show up when you make a search by using a keyword.

If you are new to a technology and you want to learn about it you might need to find and study very old patents of that art. PTO's site is the only place where you can accomplish this.

PTO's site provides three tools (Boolean, Manual, and Number) to search for patents, and explanation on how to use them is available at the site. Let us give here an example about how to use these tools.

A PATENT SEARCH EXAMPLE: MANUFACTURE OF MEDICAL SYRINGES

Boolean Search

Let us assume that you are interested in the technology to manufacture medical syringes. In the Boolean search window if you type syringe for "Term 1" and select "all years" you would be given a list of app. 39,800 (namely 39793 as in August 2001). Those are patents containing the word "syringe" and cover a time period of 1976-2001. If you check the titles of a few patents you'll see that they include all kinds of syringes, whereas you were only interested in medical syringes.

If you change the Boolean criteria in such a way that medical is "Term 1", syringe is "Term 2" , and "all years" is selected, the search result would be app. 13,400. This figure is again too high to go through the patents. What is meant by going through is not studying them, but just looking at the titles to select the ones that might be candidates of the actual learning process. At the end of such a selection process I would elect only 10-15 % of the patents that I went through. (Why is that so? That's because "medical" and "syringe" words would also be found, for example, in a patent describing a drug for diabetes. That patent would not teach about the manufacture of syringes).

Another way of narrowing the scope so that you might reach the target patents easier is when you know a company that manufactures syringes. Becton, Dickinson and Company (BDC) is a manufacturer of syringes. Again at the PTO's site if you write syringe for "Term 1", "becton" for "Term 2," and choose "assignee name" in "Field 2", and select "all years" the search would give app. 400 patents. Those are the patents of BDC that contain the word syringe and issued since 1976. That figure is more reasonable. When you go through them you will see that there are many patents related to syringes, but only patent # 6,263,641 entitled "Method and Apparatus for manufacturing, filling and packaging medical devices and medical containers" may be a starting point to learn about manufacturing of syringes.

[TIFF viewer reminder: To see the drawings of the patents, and to reach patents issued before 1976 you need to see the images of the patents, and for this purpose your browser may need to have a plug-in capable to read "tiff" files. Here are two sites where you can get a TIFF viewer: Alternatiff, Internetiff]

When you study this patent you see that the part that would be of interest is shown in Figures 6, and 10, and in the specification it is simply stated "The glass syringe barrels are manufactured by the steps as shown in the flow chart of FIG. 6 using standard glass forming techniques and equipment." It is assumed that you are already skilled in the art, therefore you need to search further in order to reach the right portfolio of patents.

At this point it is recommended to check the class and the referred patents. Patent # 6,263,641's "Current U.S. Class" is written as: "53/425, 53/426, 53/471, 53/473, 53/489"

U.S. Patent Classification Manual

When you check these class/subclasses at PTO'site for Classification Manual, you find out that the titles of them are:


Class/subclass     Title

--------------     -----------------

53                 Package making

53/425             . Sterilizing complete package

53/426             . Sterilizing cover only

53/471             . Filling preformed receptacle and closing 

                   .. With separate closure attaching (e.g., cap or plug)

53/473             . Filling preformed receptacle

53/489             . Closing package or filled receptacle 

                   .. Closing a preformed, freestanding, rigid or semi-rigid 

                      container (e.g., box, carton, bottle) 

                   ...By applying a separate preformed closure (e.g., lid, cap) 

                   .... By plugging closure into container

The class and the subclasses do not teach about syringe manufacturing.

Referred Patents

Under the "References Cited" title of the patent # 6,263,641 you will see "U.S. Patent Documents," "Foreign Patent Documents," and "Other References."

Foreign Patent Documents

"Foreign Patent Documents" look like:


19622283        Nov., 1997      DE. 

0227401         Oct., 1991      EP.

9413328         Jun., 1994      WO. 

As you may already know, the first, and the second columns are for the number, and the date of issue of the patent respectively, and the third one is the location where the patent was registered. DE is Germany, EP is European Patent, and WO stands for Patent Cooperation Treaty Application Number.

You can reach these referred patents at European Patent Office's online service.

When you check these referred foreign patents, you will see that they do not teach about manufacturing glass syringes. But you will also notice that most of these patents are also registered in the U.S. and you can reach them through PTO's web site. For example EP0227401 was held by a U.S. company "Mallinckrodt, Inc. (St. Louis, MO)" and the corresponding U.S. patent # is 4718463.

U.S. PATENT DOCUMENTS

(U.S. PTO) Number search tool

Now it is recommended that you check the referred U.S. patent documents at PTO's site (This is the page where you search patents by their numbers):


Patent #		Title

---------               ---------------------------

4,521,237		Glass dose syringe

4,628,969		Method of producing prefilled sterile plastic syringes

4,718,463		Method of producing prefilled sterile plastic syringes

5,141,430		Injection molding apparatus operating without opening the mold to 

                                    airborne contaminants

5,597,530		Process for prefilling and terminally sterilizing syringes

5,620,425		Method for the preparation of pre-filled plastic syringes

5,687,542		Isolation module for molding and packaging articles substantially 

                                    free from contaminants

These referred patents do not teach about manufacturing glass syringes neither.

U.S. Patent Classification Manual

As next step it is recommended to check "Classification Manual" again.

Here you can see all classes in alphabetical order. In the help section there is information about how to use the Classification Manual. When you go through the topics you won't be able to see any class about "syringes", but you will see that class 65 is about "glass manufacturing." If you search subclasses of class 65 you will see that this is a very crowded class. You may find all technologies related to glass manufacturing here. Unfortunately there is no subclass implying that you would find glass syringe manufacturing especially, and going through all subclasses' patents would be very time consuming, and tedious (actually I would say "impossible").

U.S. Patent Classification Index

Another way of searching the Classification Manual is through the index. Here you can find some classes and subclasses about syringes:


Syringe   

    Dental .................................  D24 / 113+ 

    Dispenser ..............................  222 / 206+ 

        With follower ......................  222 / 386+ 

    Hand held ..............................  604 / 187+ 

    Pump ...................................  417 / 437+ 

    Specific gravity tester ................  73 / 441+ 

    Sprayer   

        Liquid pump feed ...................  239 / 329+ 

        Piston feed ........................  239 / 320+ 

    Surgical ...............................  604 / 187+ 

        Air ................................  604 / 26 

        Design .............................  D24 / 113+ 

        Ear ................................  604 / 187+ 

        Eye ................................  604 / 295+ 

        Fluid operated .....................  604 / 131+ 

        Fountain ...........................  604 / 131+ 

        Hand held ..........................  604 / 187+ 

        Hydrant ............................  604 / 150 

        Indication of defect or use ........  604 / 111 

        Irrigation .........................  604 / 187+ 

        Motorized ..........................  128 / DIG 1 

        Nozzle .............................  604 / 275 

        Piston .............................  604 / 218+ 

        Pocket container for ...............  206 / 364+ 

        Preventing reuse ...................  604 / 110 

        Projectile .........................  604 / 130 

        Receptacle for .....................  206 / 364+ 

        Siphon .............................  604 / 131+ 

        Thermal medicator ..................  604 / 113+ 

        With light and electrical ..........  604 / 20+ 

        Application ........................  604 / 20+

Class 604, subclass 187 (.... Injector or aspirator syringe supported only by person during use (e.g., hand held hypodermic syringe, douche tube with forced injection, etc.) ) suggests that we might find medical syringes there.

But when you go through the patents (app. 370 in August 2001) in this subclass (i.e. 604/187) you will see that this about medical syringes of all sorts, and does not contain any patents related to the manufacture (Here are the titles of some of some of the patents in this group: Fluid presence indicator for rotatable syringe; Syringe for hematocrit and oxygen saturation blood analyzer; Medical syringe with needle-retracting mechanism; Alignment guide for hypodermic syringe; Pharmaceutical mixing container with buoyant mixing element ; Fine needle aspiration syringe; Reusable injection device for distributing a preselected dose; Syringe drive with lead screw mechanism...)

If you look for glass in the index you will see that class 65, subclass 17.1 is about glass manufacturing processes. When you go through subclasses 17.1 - 17.6 you will see that they cover various methods to manufacture glasses. But there is nothing directly related to medical glass syringe manufacturing.

Finally

If you check glass syringe manufacturer Becton, Dickinson, and Company's (BDC) patents further before 1976 you would find the following patents (2,684,556 and 2,776,661 are BDC's patents, others are the references):


Patent #	Title

---------       -----------

2,776,661	Hypodermic syringe and barrel blank

2,684,556	Machine and method for forming syringe barrels

2,368,170	Machine for fabricating glass

1,999,525	Shaping glass

2,403,073	Method and apparatus for gas filling and tipping-off envelopes

2,392,104	Fabricated glass article and method

2,423,113	Apparatus for making precision-bore tubes

2,490,252	Apparatus for making precision-bore tubes and other products 

                   of glass or the like

2,531,394	Apparatus for manufacture of precision glass tubing

3,141,754	Means for shrinking flanged vitreous syringe barrels

These patents are related to the manufacture of the glass parts of glass syringes. When you study them you will learn how to manufacture the glass parts of glass syringes.

But this is not enough. The manufacturing process includes also attaching the needle to the syringe, assembling the parts, may be further packing and sterilizing them. As practice you may want to perform patent searches for these procedures. You may also want to search the production of disposable syringes made from thermoplastics.

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©2001-2014, Tamer Ozel
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Update: 2 December 2014