On-line patent searching has profoundly improved the patent system. An inventor can use free Internet resources to search for patents and published applications relevant to his or her invention. The mother of all free on-line patent databases is that of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). The PTO database has the advantage that it is complete and has the disadvantage that it is not user-friendly. The competing Google Patent Search tool is very user friendly and also free, but is not complete.
Users of the Firefox web browser have a powerful new screening and download tool to access the PTO database. The Aspator extension for Firefox allows rapid screening of many patents found during a search by allowing the inventor quickly to select among the abstract, the first claim, all the claims, and the first three drawings for an initial screening review. If the screening review finds a patent that is relevant, the inventor can download the entire patent as a .pdf file and view, save or print the patent directly from Google Patent Search, the European Patent Office, or the Aspator servers. The Aspator server download appears to be buggy, but the other features work well.
The Aspator extension for Firefox is shareware with a requested donation of $3.88. We recommend that you check it out.
— Robert Yarbrough, Esq.