Source Like a Mad Scientist: Targeting Innovators Through Free Patent Sites

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Apr 17, 2017
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Patents can be a fantastic identifier of niche talent, particularly if you are looking for innovators or inventors. Transformational talent lives here, and pulling candidates who work on an original idea that turned into a patent can bring your candidate pool to another level.

Steve Levy told me about Free Patents Online a while back, and I’ve pulled entire teams of talent this way.

To search FPO go to the main search page here:

You’ll see the search field and a list of several acronyms. Searching FPO is not Boolean-based, but once you understand the parts, you can search the site quickly.

Enter your keywords and use the terms IC: and AC: to search by city. We are telling FPO we want to look for Inventor City or the Assignee City of Houston.

“Medicinal chemistry” IC:Houston

“Medicinal chemistry” AC:Houston

You can pull a listing of specific patents, the specific patent number, and a team of inventors/assignees that worked in a niche field or with a niche product.

You can also search The United States Patent and Trademark Office ( as a secondary source, but I’ve found FPO to be more user-friendly and more intuitive. Using the USPTO might involve some trial and error. Free Patents Online has been more efficient in my opinion in accessing the information. You’ll have to use the “patent jargon” as with FPO but once you get used to IC, IA and some of the other acronyms you’ll be able to navigate well. Tricky at times, but it can lead to a significant payoff.


Experimenting with Google Patents

Another way to search patents is with Google Patents.  You may have to change some things around, but you can pull a massive amount of information in seconds.

Start with the main website and enter your keywords:

You’ll see the database start to formulate and separate search terms. You can also pull articles from Google Scholar by clicking the corresponding box.

As shown above, you can change your keywords and the latest date of patents with the left search box. Also, you should probably change your results to 100 per page (shown at the top right of the figure above). Pay particular attention to the Download CSV. You can use this link to extract all the information in a CSV/Excel file without any fancy tools like Dataminer (see the screenshot below).

You can pull Patent Numbers, Inventor Names, direct links to the patents, and the actual search URL used to find this information, all with one click of the Download CSV button.

I would recommend using a “true” patent site like FPO in conjunction with Google Patents when you search patents. Your results may vary between these two sites, so while looking for niche innovators, use multiple resources to the pull the “best of the best.”


“You Look Horribly Familiar”

Since many of these resources supply limited bio information, you’ll have to cross-reference. Most researchers can be found on LinkedIn or through a company directory, so I typically start there. Also, use your ATS, extensions, or access to other databases if you have them.

When those resources run out, you may have to turn to People Finders like Pipl, Sydex, Peekyou or multi-site searchers like Skipease or OSINT.

As you can see, you have to be a bit of a mad scientist and experiment with different methods and tools. By innovating keywords with patent sites and cross-referencing tools, you can find the real “thinkers” that may don’t have a CV out there. I hope this helps, and have fun plunging into patents.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.