How to Look Up

Patent Numbers Online


Have you ever run across a bottle, or other antique, with a patent number stamped on it and wondered how you could find out by whom and when it was patented?  It used to require a trip to a library with the patent office journals.  Not any more.  You can look up patent numbers online, and we will tell you how.

But first, the bad news:  you need the patent number.  The patent date or the inventor’s name will not work, unless the patent was issued after 1975.  The good news?  Design patent numbers will work, too.  Here are the steps:


q   Go to website

q   On the left side, click on the blue bar labeled “Patents.”

q   On the page that pops up, under “Services,” click on “Search Patents.”

q   On the next page, on the left, under “Issued Patents,” click on “Patent Number Search.”

q   In the box under “Query” on the next page, enter the patent number.

q   The next page will say that full text is not available.  Not to worry.  Click on the box labeled “Images.”

q   The first page of the patent should be displayed.  Use the yellow arrows in the left-hand column to nagivate.


What’s that you say?  The patent that popped up isn’t the right one – it’s for a typewriter, not a bottle?  After you check and make sure that you put in the right number, try putting a D in front of it.  It may be a design patent.  Design patents, which are common for bottles, have their own series of numbers that look a lot like patent numbers.  Sometimes the patent number embossed on the bottle does not have the ‘D’ in front of it.  Also, remember that not all numbers on containers are patent numbers.

Don’t have a number handy and want to try the system to see how it works?  Use 3,898,355.  Assigned to Ball Corporation, this patent is for a process of putting a plastic coating on a glass bottle, and was never put into practice.  The two inventors soon faded into obscurity.  One of them is now a used car salesman and the other is even less reputable.

Anyway, you can bounce around the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s website and look at the other options that are available, but not much works for pre-1976 patents.

I hope you found this information useful.  If you have questions, you can email me at 


Written by Richard H. Cole, Jr.

© 2003 Minnetrista

First Published in the April 2003 Glass Chatter