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Using Patent Databases and Finding Patents

An introduction to patent searching, with links to freely available patent databases and suggested search strategies.

Why Research Patents?

What information is found in patents?

Governments grant patents to inventors as an incentive.  A patent gives legal rights which may help the inventor find financial reward in invention.  But, there is a trade-off; in a patent, the inventor describes the invention, allowing others to benefit from the information.  These benefits include design solutions and inspiration for more innovation.

Mostly obviously, a patent document is sought for:

  • the details of invention revealed in the patent. 

Patent literature also may be useful for:

  • Prior art (that is, existing patents and other literature) concerning a specific technology -- this is required when planning a patent application but also of interest when looking for design solutions and inspiration
  • Information about a company based on its patents
  • Information about a researcher based on the individual's patents
  • A sense of current invention found by exploring new patent applications in areas of interest.
  • Historical and even genealogical information.

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