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Patent information: Finding patents

Introduction to patent searching. Basic patent information as well as useful resources are included. Patent Search

Patent Classification

Patent Classification is a system of codes designed to organize and index the technical content of patents.

International Patent Classification: IPC used by WIPO is a hierarchical structure that divides technology into eight sections with approximately 70,000 subclass.

Cooperative Patent Classification: The Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) system, in force from 1 January 2013, is a bilateral system which has been jointly developed by the EPO and the USPTO. It combines the best classification practices of the two offices.

EPO video on the Cooperative Patent Classification.


Legal Status Codes

A patent's rights are enforceable only in the states/countries where the patent has been granted and renewal fees have been paid. To check if and where a patent is in force, abandoned, expired, or had a change in ownership, look up country codes and the legal status code. Remember that databases do have data gaps.

Kind Codes

US Country codes

WIPO Country Codes (scroll down to page 4)

More about Legal Status Code and espacenet by Michael J. White, Librarian for Research Services, Queen's University.

Patent Statistical Reports

The Patent Technology Monitoring Team (PTMT) periodically issues general statistics and miscellaneous reports that profile patenting activity at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  Several PTMT reports are free while some other products and services are available at reasonable cost. Click here.

WIPO Intellectual Property Statistics : provides statistical data from IP offices world wide, along with statistical reports on world wide IP activity.

European Patent Office (EPO) statistics:  statistics and annual reports on patent applications and granted patents at the EPO.

Patent Databases

Commercial patent databases:

  • PatBase Express (subscribed).   Access to the complete PatBase dataset of over 100 million publications, full text translations for non latin documents, analytics, optimising and visualisation tools and much more, with a user friendly interface requiring the bare minimum of training.  Can create an account to save complex searches to re-run at a later date.
  • Derwent WPI using Web of Knowledge (subscribed, no hyperlink to fulltext).  DWPI includes worldwide patents from 41 global issuing authorities, and contains about 16 million documents back to 1963 and is updated every 3-4 days. The value of DWPI is the result of a thorough editorial process of classification, abstracting, and indexing. Original titles and abstracts are rewritten to reveal the actual invention and to highlight the main uses and advantages of the technology.
  • SciFinder by the ACS (subscribed, need an account, new users register here): Covers patents in chemistry and related science, structure search availability.
  • Reaxys (subscribed): Covers patents in chemistry and related science, structure search availability. 

Free online patent databases:  

  • Espacenet (EPO): International patent database containing patents from 72 countries and regions. Approximately 60 million patent documents in 2010. Contains Inpadoc legal status information.
  • European Patent Register : Stores all publicly available information on European patent applications as they pass through the grant procedure.
  • PatentScope (WIPO): Provides access to international Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) applicants in full text on the day of application from 1978 to the present.  It also includes access to patent documents of participating national and regional patent offices.
  • USPTO for granted patents : US patents full text available from 1976 to the present
  • USPTO for patent applications: filed but not granted
  • GCC Patent Office: A regional office for the Gulf Cooperation Council, which comprises the States of United Arab Emirates, Kingdom of Bahrain, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Sultanate of Oman, State of Qatar, and State of Kuwait. Certificates of Patents granted by the GCC Patent Office secure legal protection of the inventor's rights in all Member States.
  • Google Patents: U.S patents from 1790 to the present, approximately 7 million patents and over a million patent applications. International patents, or U.S patents issued over the last few months are currently available.  Cannot save searches to re-run at a later date and has a non-patent literature search option.
  • Canadian Patent Database: Over 2 million Canadian IP documents from the past 94 years.  Search in English and French.
  • PatentLens: Allows to search over 80 million DNA and protein sequences disclosed in patents. Search and retrieve the full-text of over ten million patent documents from US, Europe, Australia and WIPO, their status and counterparts up to 70 countries. Links to patent tutorials, patent law around the world etc.
  • DNA patent database: DNA-based patents from USPTO from 1971 to the present.
  • Patent Retriever: Free PDF download of US, European and PCT patent applications (need to have the patent office prefix and number to use).
  • PAT2PDF: Free U.S. patents and also search capability.

For more details see Patent Database Review by Michael White, librarian from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario.

Patent Searching Tips

Patent information is available to the public via many databases. It is advisable/recommended to conduct overlapping patent searches from several databases, because the coverage of the patent documents and the user interfaces differ depending on the database used.

Most patents are written in such a way as to make finding them difficult. Because of this, commercial databases can bring more value by offering rewritten titles and abstracts and making them easier to find.

  • Provide a list of words that describe your idea: what material or method is used, what does the invention do, and what is special about the invention?
  • Use words that are not common. For example, "water" is too common and leads to too many results. Instead, you might use "water desalination" if that is the germaine concept.
  • Use synonyms (e.g., "renewable energy", "sustainable energy").
  • Don't restrict the search to titles. Sometimes patents have remarkably unhelpful titles (e.g., "An Apparatus").
  • If the invention is available, it might be easier to check the product itself and its packaging for a patent number. Check the company websites for listed patents.
  • Use patent classifications.
  • When you have found a relevant patent, search for citations for it.

Library Patent Training Materials

Tutorials and Training

How to search for Patents  courtesy of University of Central Florida libraries (good video!)

Intellectual Property Essentials for Academic Researchers (available from the Regents of the University of California under a Creative Commons' Attribution-Non-commercial-ShareAlike 3.0 unported license patent search information and tutorials

WIPO tutorials on Patent Basics; Patent Search and Retrieval; and Patent Analysis

Interactive training course at European Patent Office (EPO)

How to read a patent by Patent Lens

"Tips for reading patents: a concise introduction for scientists" T&F article

The Lens has tools for evaluating and annotating patents.

Intellectual Property Office (UK) IP Tutor modules



Citing Patents

The EndNote citation management software, available to download from KAUST Library, can help you with patent citation formats. Patents selected in the Web of Knowledge and Scopus can be transferred to Endnote.

Citing Patents from Iowa State University Library Patents LibGuide