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The following section contains subjective comments about the system that represent our editor's opinions, and should not be viewed as fact. Editor's opinions include positive and negative judgments about the product written in consideration of wider context, including related products and the industry at large. Further subjective information is presented in clearly labeled "Editor's Notes" throughout the report.
FreePatentsOnline (FPO) is a free patents search system aimed at novice to advanced patent searchers. FPO has advanced record, search, and alert saving features for users who register a free account. By offering varying levels of search form complexity, the system provides a scalable interface that at the low end requires only keyword searching and at the high end offers field searching over 25 data fields via operators such as Boolean, stemming, proximity, and relevance ranking.
FreePatentsOnline features a simple interface with underlying complexity that will allow advanced users to tailor searches and save results. Individual pages load quickly in an intuitive user interface. Registered users can set up helpful customizable alerts and export sets of records to Microsoft Excel files with relative ease. The available data collection that includes United States (US), European Patent Office Collection (EP), Japan (JP), and Patent Cooperation Treaty (WO/PCT) data. PDF files are available for all collections except Japan.
Some aspects of the system will discourage advanced or professional users from using FreePatentsOnline as the sole tool on anything larger than a cursory search. Search histories are unavailable, preventing prior art searchers from detailing the steps taken in a search of any considerable length. The lack of any representative drawing for the vast majority of patents, either in the hit list or the record view, is also a hindrance to prior art searchers used to such functionality for the purpose of quickly assessing the worth of a reference. There is no option for secure login, which may lead some searchers to be concerned with privacy. Additionally, the system lacks family data, an important feature to users wishing to conduct a thorough patent search.
Compared to its competitors, FreePatentsOnline holds its own and offers an advantage in several areas such as record saving and managing, and alert functionality (both of which users can access with a free registered account). Additionally, the system’s relevancy ranking operators are notable for their usefulness. With some amount of practice, users can use operators to specify exactly how important each term is within a specific query. Combining this with relevancy ranking sorting brings useful results to the top of the user’s hit list.
The outlook for FreePatentsOnline indicates that development is ongoing. Sister site SumoBrain was originally thought to receive additional features as the for-pay service of Patents Online, LLC. However, now that SumoBrain is also a free to use system, it appears that both sites will see additional development.
What does exist in FreePatentsOnline is worth checking out as a free alternative to other high-end free systems or low-end pay systems. This system may be used most effectively in combination with other tools such as Google Patents or esp@cenet, which have complementary qualities.