Murti Design

Interior Design blog

I blog about interior design, furniture, lighting, materials and other things that inspire me.

How To Search For Furniture Patents

example-of-furniture-patent

 

Overview

Following up on my last blog post, we realize that intellectual property protection is essential for any furniture or product designer. 

Design patents seem like the way to go. You can only get a patent if your design is new. Of course everything these days seems like it was built on something old. The key is that if you take two old things and combine them into something new, it's good enough for a patent. 

For example, you can't patent the wheel. But you can patent a wheel that is shaped like the face of a clown (let's assume it hasn't been invented, and hopefully it will never be invented). 

Another advantage of searching for patents is Say you have a design already, how can you tell if it is new enough? That's what we'll cover here

Step 1) Search vendors you know

The obvious and easiest step is to search vendors you know about. Search Knoll, Holly Hunt, Yliving, etc. I have dozens of vendors in my bookmarks, and those are just a fraction of how many people there are out there. Search 1stdibs and any of its competitors

Most big sites have a search bar where you can enter in terms that describe your design. If you've designed a chair, it doesn't make sense to search all of someone's website when you can just type in "chair" and find what you need. 

Searching everyone is impossible. It would take too much time. It helps if your design is in a niche. If you design metal furniture like Johnathan Nesci, it doesn't make sense to search people like Kravet because there is no way they have something like this:

johnathan nesci steel sentry bench

If you find a few inventions that looks similar, make sure to save them and their source

Step 2) Get on Pinterest

Another good way to search is Pinterest. If you're already using Pinterest you probably follow some people who have tons of Pins. I follow someone named Thom Ortiz who has 20,000 pins on seating! 

Tip: Search big Pinterest boards on your phone. I find that on my computer's browser, the website will buckle under the weight of loading thousands of pins. 

But what if I'm not on Pinterest? Well stop reading this and get on pinterest. It's a great resource! I can't tell you how many times I've had to throw away my designs because I found a similar piece on Pinterest. PS. Follow me at Murtidesigns :) 

A good way to find people and boards is to search "furniture" or whatever in the search bar of Pinterest and press enter. This will give you a screen of furniture but ignore that and instead go to the drop down menu next to the search bar and filter by "board"

Pinterest seaching by board

Follow everyone who has furniture that suits your style. I design contemporary furniture so people who post "shabby-chic" or whatever are useless for me. 

You can also search terms on Pinterest just like google. So searching "steel chair" would bring up lots of results although it is difficult to find the Jonathan Nesci chair. Unfortunatly most people post to Pinterest without hashtags or good descriptions. 

finding images pinterest

If you find a few inventions that looks similar, make sure to save them and their source

Step 3) Google Searching

Well this is pretty self explanatory.If you find a few inventions that looks similar, make sure to save them and their source

Step 4) Google Patents

This is where the meat of this blog post gets started so pay attention! 

Go to https://patents.google.com/

Type in what you're designing. While I'm not showing you my design, it's a side table so that's what I'm typing in. Press enter.

Searching google patents

Notice how there are two boxes instead of just one for searching. This is important. Don't put side table in the same box. Otherwise it will search "table" OR "side". And side is useless because it could be the side of a shoe. 

I also like to change the type to "design"

change type of patent on google patent

Search all the tables you can find. Try switching up terms as well. Remove the word side, and just search tables. One example I found is this:

example of google patent table

Search all the tables you can find. Try switching up terms as well. Remove the word side, and just search tables. One example I found is this:

I also found Holly Hunt and Apparatus on here as well

holly hunt google patent

Once you've found a bunch of patents that are in the same class as yours (ex. side tables). SAVE THEM. 

In some of them you'll find the CPC classification numbers. Write them all down. Don't worry about what any of it means, just do it.

CPC classifications google patent

For me, I got a few side tables and wrote down

A47B 7/00; A47B 13/08: A47B 13/10;A47B 21/00; A47B 25/00; A47B 2009/006; A47B 11/00 A47C 1/14: A47C3/00; A47C 3/04; A47C3/14: A47C 3/16: A47C 3/18: A47C 3/20: A47C 3/36; A47C 4/00; A47C 4/28: A47C 4/30; A47C 4/38: A47C 4/42: A47C 47C 9/02: A47C 9/002; A47C 9/007; A47C 9/025; A47C 9/10; A47C 11/00; A47C 12/00; A47C 13/00; A47C 16/02:
A47B 7/007/02: A47B 45/00; A47B

Now you can go back to searching google patents but use any of those numbers as well. For example search A47B13/10. Make sure to remove any spaces in the numbers. You can also just search large classes instead. So my list above as A47B and A47C. Just search those and see what you can find. 

Overall my experience on google led to disappointment. I didn't find lots of stuff.

Step 5) USPTO's Database 

The next step is go onto the US Patent office's website. Like all government websites, it's hard to use. You can serach the database with terms like "side table" but it's a good idea to search by classification as well. 

Imagine all the things that can be patented. It's a lot. Without a classification scheme, you would never be able to find anything. There are classes for furniture so once you find them, you can also search the database by class and get more results. 

1. Go to the Index to the US Patent Classification

You can either google search "USPTO Index to US Patent Classification, or you can go to this link. Search for terms that describe what you're inventing. For furniture you go to D06 Furnishings. 

Note: sometimes it's listed as D6

USPTO Index to classification

Click the go button and you'll be taken to a large list. Click any of the numbers next to the text descriptions and you'll be taken to an expanded page with images (don't click the "P" or the "A")

USPTO index to classification
USPTO index classification furniture

See this wasn't so bad! Now we have pictures to help us. Suppose your table has tubular legs and an irregularly shaped top. Both of those would be under separate numbers. Go through this page and write down any number for anything that might describe your invention.

While I'm not going to post what my table looks like, maybe you can guess from the classification numbers that I found :)

D6/ 677 Circular or oval in plan
D6/ 677.5 Tubular cross section support
D6/ 680 Design with 3 or more sides having the same appearance
D6/ 680.3 Tubular supports
D6/ 685 Tables for seated users
D6/ 690 Uniform Thickness tables
D6/ 691.8 Support at or beyond top edge
D6/ 692 Circular or oval in plan
D6/ 692.4 Tubular or wire support
D6/ 691.6 Tubular or wire support

Step 2) Get more classifications from patents you found on google patent

Remember the side tables we looked at from google patents? They also have classification numbers

USPTO patent classification location

Write them all down. For side tables I got

D6/691, 691.1, 691.2, 691.6, 641, 691.3, 691.4, 656.15, 656, 688.1, 688, 698, 390, 382, 692, 692.4, 691.8, 686, 353, 688.27, 708.1, 692.2, 692.3, 657, 672, 685, 707. 19, 691.9, 701, 707, 70723, 644, 656.19; D25/63 D6/333,335,340,344, 347, 349_355, 358, 360,363-365, 381, 406.6,596, 601, 648, 662.1, 675, 677, 685-687, 688.15, 688.27, 690, 691, 691.8, 692.1-692.3, 695.1, 708.16, 70.8.2, 709,709.2, 709.22, 711, 712, 716 716.7, 717

Keep in mind all these numbers are supposed to have a D6 in front of them. I'm just too lazy to do it. 

Step 3: Search the Database with the classification numbers and descriptions

Here is the link to get to the USPTO Patent Full Text and Image Database. 

http://patft.uspto.gov/netahtml/PTO/search-bool.html

Make sure for field 1 and 2 you change them to what is relevant. If you're searching "side table" change them to "title" or "abstract"

uspto database searching

When searching names like this, only search years from 1976 to present. It's the default. 

You'll get a list of patents. Click any of them that seem relevant and scroll all the way down and click "images" to see the patent. Don't be confused by finding more patents listed as you scroll down to "images." Those are just references. You can ignore them UNLESS you find a patent that looks just like yours. Then look through all the references and you'll get an idea of what's been done and can change your design accordingly.

Download and save any that are relevant. I like opening them all in tabs because it takes forever for them to load

Search alternative terms as well like "end" table "drink" table, "occasional" table, "round" table

Now you can search by classification. Type in the classification numbers and change the field to "Current USclassification" and years from "1790-present"

current us classification search

You'll get A LOT more results now. This is where the subclasses come in handy. Instead of just searching D6.691, the D6.691.1 or 2 or whatever will give you more narrow results and cut down on the search time. 

Try searching first for what is more relevant then stepping back. For example, my table has a tubular base and circle top. So I'll look at the classification that has those two things. If I have time I'll broaden my search to rectangular tables with a tubular base. 

Another trick is to put a term in term 2 like "table" and set the field to "title. That way you're not getting weird results.

Write down all the ones you've searched through. 

Step 4) Give up after searching

At a certain point you have to stop. I can't tell you when that point is. There are more databases to search through as well and I will update this post with that information later. 

Summary

We've seen that searching for patents is not as bad as the it seems. I started with the USPTO's tutorials that that was a nightmare. I hope that this information will come to help some people out. Leave a comment if you have any questions or suggestions.