Guides > First Time Visitors > Tutorial - How to Use USPTO.GOV
Web Basics    Navigating USPTO.GOV    Special Features    Special Requirements   
Web Basics

A browser is a software application that is used on your desktop to open and view web pages and related files.

Different browsers may not have the same display capabilities, causing differences in the formatting, fonts and other display characteristics that a designer has included on a web page. Very old browser software may not be able to take advantage of advances in web page coding. You should consider regularly upgrading your browser to keep current with web technologies if you want to take full advantage of what may be offered on the internet.

Browsers can also differ in included (already bundled) plug-in capabilities, and may require an extra effort on your part to download and install current viewers for files other than the simplest web pages.

You can often make changes to the settings for your browser to improve accessiblity of web material. Such changes include altering the default font size, subsituting your own cascading style sheets, changing default colors, and changing how alternative text tags for images are displayed. There may be other changes that you can make to personalize your web experience. Read your browser's online help for instructions.

Navigating previously viewed pages:

Back & Forward navigation buttons - you can navigate to previously viewed web pages stored in your browser's history by using your browsers "back" and "forward" buttons -- they will appear as icons that look like left and right directed arrows in the browser's toolbar, a set of icons to access commands or functions of the browser. You can also use the browser's menubar, the text-based controls for the browser, and choose the "view > goto" (MICROSOFT Internet Explorer or IE) or Go (NETSCAPE) to access browser history navigation controls.

History - you can view a list of previously visited web pages by opening the browser history. Use the menubar to locate it with the "view > explorer bar" (IE) or Go (NETSCAPE).

Refreshing your screen:

Are you sure you are viewing the latest version of a web page or its images? Images and web pages are "cached" or stored in a temporary directory on your local personal computer (PC) so they don't have to be downloaded for every visit. On the internet, web pages and images are usually replaced with files that have the same name as the original in order to keep existing link structures intact, preventing "404 file not found errors." Based on the settings that you have chosen for your local history it can take a very a long time before your browser checks for new versions.

There are three ways to force refreshes of web pages:

(1) To force a refresh of a web page, locate the refresh or reload button in the browser toolbar (it looks like a pair of curved arrows or a single curved arrow) and click on it.

(2) If a simple refresh/reload click does not work, you can also try depressing the "shift" key while clicking the refresh/reload button.

(3) Use the "tools > internet options > settings" (IE) or "edit > preferences" (NETSCAPE) to view and change your browser's settings, and to clear history files and caches (temporary files), then try the refresh/reload button again.

Printing and saving files:

Usually, you can print or save a web page by clicking on the appropriate icon in your toolbar or selecting "file > print or save" from the menubar. However, when a plug-in like ADOBE ACROBAT or one of the Patent image viewers is being used you may need to locate and use the plug-in's own toolbar or menubar commands in order to print or save files.

Another way to save files that are viewed with plug-ins is to locate the original link on a web page and "right click," then choose the "save target" option to save the file.  >> See Downloading Files

Printing a selected "page" or range of "pages" from a single HTML file:

An HTML web page is a single document that can be very, very long. If you do not want to print the entire document, there is a way to control which portions of a long HTML file are printed. Use the FILE > PRINT PREVIEW option in your browser's menubar to preview the web page exactly as it will print.

Near the top of the print preview screen you will see a page box and a count of pages that will be printed. You can navigate through the preview to determine exactly which pages you want to print. Select the PRINT button on the toolbar of the preview screen. You will have the options of:

  • Printing the entire document
  • Printing the current page; or
  • Printing a specified page or range of pages.

    Use the last option to enter a specific print page or a range of print pages to restrict just how much of the original web page is printed out.


Frames are screen displays that split the window in a way so that more than one web page can be displayed in a single window. Browsers vary widely when it comes to printing a specific frame, or printing the full display.

In IE, you can "right click" and choose print. You can also view the properties of the frame, copy the file name, and paste it into the address bar to open the frame in a full window.

In NETSCAPE, you can access a number of viewing options, including opening a frame in a new window, in order to work with and print framed pages.

  Display Resolution The screen display resolution for your PC controls how much information you can see at one time and can affect the layout of information on your browser's screen. You may want to consider increasing or decreasing the resolution (number of pixels) for you screen to improve usability of web pages. Many webpages are designed with a minimum 600 x 800 pixel screen resolution in mind.
NOTE: a "pixel" is a single dot of color on a computer display screen -- a 600x800 display can display a grid of colored dots that is 600 dots high by 800 dots wide.
  Downloading Files

There are two ways to download files in a browser. The first way is to simply click on a link and let your browser's download function take over.

Sometimes, however, your browser may try to open a file in your browser window. If this happens you can always try a "right click" on the link and use the pop-up menu to save the targeted file of that link. Please note that "Right-clicking" will not work when a link goes to a script that generates a pop-up window.

  Plug-ins and Viewers

All files have "MIME" type extensions that appear as the last 3 or 4 characters following the "." in a full file name (example: tutorial.htm). Depending on your operating system, you may not normally be able to see this extension, but may instead see a simplified file name without the extension and an icon that indicates what kind of application or program is used to view and/or edit the file.

Your system may attempt to associate a newly encountered file type with an existing application on your local PC that may or may not work. You may get a small icon on your screen and a message that the file cannot be opened using a particular application on your desktop. This standard error message may be misleading. An example of one type of file on the USPTO site that may not open properly with your existing applications is a patent image. Patent images require special viewers:  >> LEARN MORE about viewing patent images

Once you have downloaded and installed a plug-in, or even if a plug-in came with your system, it does not mean you are finished with maintaining your plug-ins. Almost all software goes through cyclical improvements, resulting in the release of new versions with improved display and file handling capabilities. Be sure to regularly check vendors' sites for newer versions of plug-ins, including the free versions.

Another action that can affect your viewers is upgrading or installing software on your local PC. When software updates and installations occur, existing file-type associations can be overwritten, breaking the relationship of that file-type to the viewer that you were using previously. If you are comfortable locating the MIME type extensions and changing the associations for programs to be used to open them, then you can try that. If manually changing the associations does not work for you, then your only choice may be to download and install the required plug-in again.

>> Links to available free plug-ins and viewers used for USPTO.GOV files

  Search Engines

A search engine is a web application accessed through a website that you can use to locate files by typing in a word, phrase or a more extensive query. Many commercial search engines are available that have different capabilities, and there are search engines that specialize in certain industries and interests. Although a browser usually has a default search engine already associated with it, you can access a different search engine by typing in its domain name address into the address bar of your browser or locate lists of available search engines by conducting a search on the term, search engines.

The USPTO uses the Federal Government's search engine and portal,, to provide search query support for our web page content. Both simple and complex search queries are available to aid in your search.

A search does not, however, search everything that is offered via our website. There can be a delay of about two weeks or more between when new items are posted and when checks our site for new material. In addition, neither nor any other search engine can be used to conduct interactive searches of USPTO databases provided through our eBusiness systems (patent text, images, and status; trademark text, images and status; TTAB proceedings and decisions; assignments, and more).

  Hyperlinks, URLs and IP addresses

Hyperlinks are used to connect web pages to other websites, to other pages, to material and systems in the same site, and to specific places or "bookmarks" within the same page or on another page. A link is created by embedding the web address that includes the file path for a specific page into code that is activated when you click on text or an image.

URLs specify a website's domain name but the term is often misused to refer to a entire file path. File paths can be be either absolute (spelled out to specifically include the domain name and the full chain of directories leading to a specific file name) or relative (using a kind of link notation to "walk" up or down a file directory tree to access another file placed relative to the first file on the same tree). Many link errors (404 -- address not found) occur because of faulty relative addressing.

[HINT: You can sometimes "fix" a link by changing the file name in your browser's address bar or by removing directories from the file path to "walk" up the chain of directories in the hope of locating an index page that has correct links on it.]

IP addresses are numeric codes that indicate specific servers or network locations. Domain names are mapped to IP addresses to make them more understandable and to facilitate working with groups of IP addresses affiliated with the same domain.

  Launching E-mail with a web page

Hyperlinks can be used to launch your local e-mail application with a preloaded address and even a pre-loaded subject line. If you are at a computer that does not have e-mail capability, you can make a note of the link by "right-clicking" the link and viewing the shortcut so you can write it down for later. The shortcut will look like this:

where is the e-mail address and the suggested subject is patents

If you do not have access to an e-mail account and need to ask a question, please use one of our other contact methods found on "Help" or on "Contacts"

  Viruses and other computer threats

Security exploits such as the "KLEZ" family of worms take advantage of vulnerabilities in E-mail programs to infect a user's computer, locate E-mail addresses in files (such as cached copies of webpages) and ship themselves out with fake "from" addresses derived from those files. There are also publicly available mailing scripts and other things that can be easily done to fake an originating address. You can find out where an E-mail "really" came from by checking something called an" internet header " (not the same thing as a message header). What you'll see is a chain of server domain names and IP addresses (a set of numbers separated by periods in the form 172 . ## . ### . ## ) that identifies servers and routers involved in transmitting and receiving the E-mail.

If you unexpectedly receive an E-mail with an attachment from any address, do not open the attachment without first determining that it is safe to open it. Make sure it is an attachment that you expected to receive and take a few precautionary steps to make sure that the attachment will not launch a "payload" virus or worm.

How to determine what kind of attachment you have received:

  • Look at the icon - does it look like it might be an executable (program) file even though the name says it's a picture? If it is an executable file, then don't click on it - to do so will launch a program that could contain a virus.
  • Still suspicious? Check the real name of the attachment (sometimes you can't see the full name) - right click on the attachment and then click " properties " to see the full file name . The last three letters (to the right of the " . ") are called a " mime type " and indicate what kind of file it is. A file ending with ".jpg" or ".gif" is a picture but you should be aware that it is possible to add an attachment with multiple mime type extensions so that the file name only looks like it ends in ".jpg" because they are the first letters following the " . " If the file's icon doesn't look like an image icon or you are concerned, don't open the file! Files that end with " .exe ", " .ini ", " .bat ", " .pif ". " .vbs " and others not listed here are executable files that can launch dangerous programs. Be especially careful with screensavers - they can have viruses and worms embedded in them.

Best advice - if you aren't sure about something then don't open it!!!

You can help prevent the spread of the computer worms and viruses by keeping your anti-virus programs up to date and by downloading and installing the latest security patches for your E-mail and other software programs.

You can find out more about computer security threats such as viruses and worms, and also learn about computer hoaxes at the Computer Security Resource Center operated by the U.S. Department of Commerce - National Institute of Standards and Technology.

  Spyware / Adware

Occasionally we hear from customers who are annoyed because they are receiving commercial ads whenever they visit the USPTO.GOV website. The USPTO does not have any such advertising arrangements in place. You may be a victim of spyware.

Spyware is tracking software installed on your pc that reports your website surfing patterns to its originator. This information is often used to generate popup advertising on your pc based upon the site you are visiting - hence the term "adware."

It can be difficult to detect and remove this kind of software on your own, but commercial products are available to do this, some of which offer free trials. You can locate assistance online by using your favorite search engine to hunt for "spyware" or "adware."

  Web Sites vs. Systems

A web site can represent a set web pages, images and associated features, and can be linked to free-standing systems that are included within the same or different domain names. The line between a web site and a system is often not very apparent to an end-user.

The USPTO uses a single server to host most of the web site's content or informational pages and files. We provide eBusiness systems that enrich the user experience by offering more search support, enabling e-filing and facilitating tracking of progress for specific applications or cases.

>> see list of available e-Business systems, operating requirements, and hours


Navigating USPTO.GOV
  USPTO Home Page

USPTO.GOV home pageWWW.USPTO.GOV is the only official website of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
The home page includes:

. top navigations to reference resources, all eBusiness, news, help and search aids
• a navigation cluster on the left side to promote eBusiness
• a site navigation on the right side, a search interface
• a dropdown menu of special profiles (portals) geared to customer groups
• a feature story
• site disclosures and hot links on the bottom

  USPTO Navigation Bar

Navigation Bar:

  • USPTO Seal and name spelled out at top
  • Common Navigations:
    • USPTO home page
    • Site Index
    • Search
    • FAQ (frequently asked questions)
    • Glossary (defines acronyms and terms and links to best place on site)
    • Guides (references)
    • Contacts (phones/mail)
    • e-Business
    • e-Biz Alerts
    • News
    • Help
  • Navigation Bar created by a central javascript file - can be changed by editing one file instead of thousands of pages

Other standard navigational cues for USPTO web pages:

  • Central cascading style sheet (CSS) promotes use of uniform font styles and colors throughout the site
  • Context link in upper right corner - provides sense of overall placement within website
  • Standardized "Trail of Breadcrumbs" and titling of pages - for sense of placement and recognition
  • Color code bar below trail - provides a context cue
  • Colorful, pleasing backgrounds - provide additional context cues and break monotony
  • Common iconic symbols & keys for interpretation
  • Glossary links - provide ready access to definitions
  For First Time Visitors

New UsersThis page provides a contextual site map to assist in navigating the site.

It has two columns, the "Content Overview" and "Hot Stuff," that provide expanded previews of what kind of information can be found within the following key navigational groupings:

Content Overview

  • Patents
  • Trademarks
  • About USPTO
  • Contact Us
  • How to ...
  • Policy & Law
  • Reports
  • Search Collections
  • Search Tips and Tools

Hot Stuff

  • Emergencies/Security Alerts
  • eBusiness
  • Forms
  • How to Look up Laws and Regulations
  • How to Search Patents and Trademarks
  • Help
  • Guides
  • News & Notices
  • Questions and Answers (FAQ)
  • About USPTO.GOV
  • Website Disclosures


  • PatentsPatenting - process information
  • Guides
  • Laws/Rules

  • International
  • Searching
  • Resources
  • Help


  • Patent eBusiness Search patents and pending patent applications; view text and images
  • Patents Official Gazette
  • Buy copies of patents and related documents
  • Search and view published and issued Sequences (biotech)
  • Sequence software
  • File online (EFS) and obtain authoring and submission tools
  • Electronic filing partners
  • Check status of pending and issued patents (PAIR)
  • How to use PAIR and EFS
  • Customer Numbers, Digital Certificates & downloads
  • Customer Support


  • TrademarksBasics
  • Manuals
  • Laws/Rules
  • International

  • Registration
  • Appeals
  • Resources
  • Help


  • Trademark eBusinessSearch existing & pending trademarks
  • TM Official Gazette
  • Buy copies
  • File trademark registrations
  • Change (assign) ownership of mark
  • Search assignments of ownership for trademarks
  • File, search and view proceedings for TTAB (Trademark Trial & Appeal Board)
  • Check status of trademark registrations

Products & Services

  • Products & ServicesOG (Official Gazette)
  • Catalog
  • Assistance
  • FAQ (questions and answers)

  • Buy copies of patents, trademarks and publications
  • Assignments - change ownership of patents and trademarks
  • Free publications and services
  • Statistics
  • Libraries - Patent & Trademark Depository Library Program << local resources for you!

  • Highlights - About us, new products, newsletters, product alerts and more
  eBusiness and the USPTO

eBusiness Center - public access point for all online systems

eBiz Alerts - announcements of planned system events and long-duration system problems

eBusiness Systems - descriptions, operating requirements and availability - 20 systems are currently available

  About USPTO

About USPTO Administrative and Executive Information:


• Mission
• Tours
• Education
• Under Secretary
• Policies/Procedures

  Contacts ContactsHours of Operation

• Washington DC area Federal Government Closures
• Phones
• Mailing Addresses
• Maps/Facilities
• Correspondence by topic
• Customer Support
  How to ... How to ...Find ...

• Get ...
• Report ...
• Become ...
• Get answers ...
  Policy & Law Policy & Law Boards & Counsel

• International
• Legislation
• Patents
• Trademarks
• Strategic Planning
• Site Disclosures


• Registered Patent Agents/Attorneys
• Special Reports
• Statistics
• Legislation/Regulation
• Jobs



• Library of Congress - Copyright Office
• Vessel Hull Designs
• USPTO Role - Although USPTO does not register copyrights, we do have a role ...

  Other Identifiers

Other IdentifiersNot just Patents & Trademarks out there...

• USPTO has special pages for Fastener Quality Act Insignia and Native American Tribal Insignia
• Definitions and links to other agencies/ standards bodies for identifiers other than patents and trademarks

  News News & Notices Public Notices

• OG
• Federal Register
• General
• Patents
• Trademarks
• Consumer Alerts
• News Archives, Mailing Lists, and more...
  Guides Guides FAQ (questions and answers)

• Glossary
• Phones
• Patent
• Trademark
• reference portal
• Data dictionaries / information technology
• USPTO Site help
  Help Help UCC (USPTO Call Center) via e-mail, phone, U.S. mail

• Other Points of Contact
• Help for special customer groups
• FAQs
• Glossary
• News
• Phones
• Products & Services
  How to search

How to SearchSearch aids & advice

  • Site search
  • Patents
  • Trademarks
  • Other Searches & Lists
  • How to View Patent Images
  Search collections

Search CollectionsProvides a view of information clusters on USPTO.GOV and other sites of interest

Includes both web page clusters or index pages and searchable databases (systems)

  Search via The USPTO website can be word-searched using the search engine. Use the Search button in the toolbar above to conduct a text search of informational pages on the USPTO website. You can restrict your search to some selected portions of the site by choosing a folder of related webpages from the dropdown menu on the advanced site search page.

Patents, Trademarks and information about large groupings of very similar items are not contained on web pages but are accessed through online database systems that are linked to from our web pages and cannot be searched using

In order to search each database you must connect and follow its specific directions.

  Site Index A linked topical index of materials on the USPTO web site.
  Customer Profiles (interest portals)

PortalsSpecial pages of links collected to suit customer interest groups.

New content suggested by customer e-mails to webmaster.

  • How to Use this Site
  • Inventors Resources
  • Kids' Pages
  • Libraries
  • Musician, Artist or Authors
  • Business Resources
  • Global / International intellectual property
  • Technology Developer
  • Copyrights
  • Other Identifiers
  • How to Search
  • News Media & Publications
  • Legislator Legislators
  • Patent Attorney or Agent
  • Trademark Attorney
  • Vendor
  • New/Potential Employee
  • Employee
  • Special Interests or Needs

  Global/ international intellectual property

Global/ International Intellectual Property• Intellectual property (IP) organizations
• Regional organizations
• Laws & regulations
• Enforcement
• includes U.S. domestic IP enforcement
• international protection
• Internatioanl. IP Rights Training Database, in concert with Department of State
• Other references

• Department of Commerce Export Portal

  Related Web Sites

U.S. Government - Foreign Government Intellectual Property Offices - Other sites of interest


  Special Features

Enterprise FAQ• Enterprise FAQ - single point interface for growing number of questions
• Links to other pages of USPTO FAQs
• Currently contains General FAQ and Patent Amendment FAQ
• Will eventually have all answers contained in single place and format with Guided User Interface
• Content areas of USPTO.GOV will be able to list questions that point to a single, central set of answers


FTP (file transfer protocol) is a simple way to download files that is usually faster than the HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol) that is used to send and receive web pages with a browser.

>> see Patent Data FTP information

>> see full directory of available FTP
folders and files


Glossary• Over 900 terms and acronyms and growing
• Defined in the simplest, nonlegal terms possible
• Interlinked definitions to learn more
• Direct links to subject matter area
• Context of use provided

  Kids Pages

Kids• Our award-winning Kids' Pages
• Over one hundred web pages jam-packed with games, quizzes,stories and fun graphics.
• Not just for kids!

News at USPTO e-mailReceive e-mail update on news, announcements and events from the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

To subscribe send an e-mail to with "subscribe" as the subject.

  PTO Museum

PTO MuseumOperated by the Inventors Hall of Fame

• Gift shop with a variety of fun and inventive products and goods and clothing imprinted with the USPTO seal
• Special interest exhibits with focus on patents and trademarks that change periodically



videosA variety of USPTO videos on various topics is available for online viewing with RealPlayer

Trouble viewing a video?

If you are unable to launch one of these videos in RealPlayer from your browser, you may want to try to locate your RealPlayer software on your desktop or program library and launch it outside of a browser window.

Copy the video's URL address (right click on a link and copy the link location) and paste it into the RealPlayer sofware as follows:

  • select FILE from the top of the RealPlayer interface
  • select OPEN
  • paste the URL into the OPEN text box field
  • click OK to access the desired video from our website.

Special Requirements
  Customer Number

In order to take advantage of secure electronic filing and viewing of patent records, you must obtain a Customer Number and link that number to all relevant patent status tracking records in the PAIR system.

>> see Patent EBC - New Users

  Deposit Account

A deposit account can be used to pay fees to the USPTO. It is particularly helpful for people who conduct a lot of business with the office. You can also use a credit card to pay fees.

>> see How to Pay Fees

  Digital PKI Certificate

In order to take advantage of secure electronic filing and viewing of patent records, you must read the Subscriber Agreement and request a digital PKI certificate.

>> see Patent EBC - New Users

  Patent Image Viewers

About Searching and Viewing Patents:

Our website provides full text for patents issued from 1976 to the present. We provide TIFF images for all patents from 1790 (YES, REALLY 1790) to the present.

You can search on text in all elements (fields) of the patent or select those fields you wish to search only for patents issued since 1976. You can only search on patent numbers and/or classification codes for the pre-1976 patents.

To view the images for any patent you must

(1) download a TIFF image plug in (viewer) and
(2) run the downloaded executable file to install a TIFF image plug in that supports G4 compression;
(3) when you get a text search result based for a patent number, locate the image button near the top of the screen to launch the viewer.

The system will download the images one page at a time. More extensive Instructions for obtaining and using a free plug-in from different vendors are contained on "How to Access Full Page Images• "

The biggest problem people have when installing a viewer is that they forget to close the browser application and run the viewer program's executable file after downloading it in order to actually install the viewer plug-in. If you have run the file and still have problems, try restarting your PC.

For experienced users, you may lose or change the MIME-type file association for TIFF images when performing a system upgrade or installing new software. If that happens you may need to reinstall your chosen viewer.

  Registered Patent Attorney/ Agent

You do not need to be a registered patent attorney or agent to represent yourself in the patent application process, but you must be registered to represent others in the prosecution of patents with the USPTO if you will be representing someone else other than your minor child. There is no similar USPTO registration requirement for trademark attorneys.

>> see MPEP Chapter 400 - Representation

>> see petitioning for parents/custodians representing a minor child

>> see registration examinations and related procedures for patent attorneys and agents

>> see searchable roster of Registered Patent Attorneys and Agents


Send questions about USPTO programs and services to USPTO Information

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• While we cannot promise to accommodate all requests, your suggestions will be considered and may lead to other improvements to the web site.