Patents, Copyright, and Intellectual Property
Patents are a rich source of scientific and technical information. The time-consuming task of searching for patents has been streamlined by the availability of Web-based patent search and retrieval systems. Below we link to the major patent databases and search engines on the Web.
The three major free public access databases, described below in the first section, are:
- Espacenet Worldwide Patents database maintained by the European Patent Office that includes U.S. patents.
- U.S. Patent & Trademark Office's web site, through which you can access the full page images of U.S. patents going back to 1790.
- PATENTSCOPE database maintained by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) but does not include U.S. patents.
Special care should be used to determine the scope of each database. Country coverage, starting dates, and searchable fields often vary within the same database depending on the country and the time period.
- Major Patent Databases
- National/International Patent Offices
- Intellectual Property
- Library Collections/Depositories
- Commercial Patent Services (including patent analysis tools)
- University Services & Policies
Major Patent Databases
Espacenet Worldwide Patents: This is the single, most comprehensive, free patent database available. The European Patent Office has developed a worldwide patent database of over 70 million patents from over 80 countries, many with full-text page images, available at no charge.
The starting date varies greatly by country, with the earliest being 1836 for the United States. The availability of any given field also varies greatly by country and time period. For example, only about 50% of the patents have a title field and only 33% have an English abstract. Please review the Coverage of the Worldwide Database for details. We recommend you consult the International Patent Classification Manual before beginning your search.
This site permits downloading of the full-text of entire patents with a single command, including U.S. patents. To print or download the full-text, click on the patent title from any search result listing. Then click on the Original documents link on the left. Until one downloads the patent text, one can only print a single page at a time. To download the entire patent text, click on the Download link directly above and to the right of the displayed text. Do NOT use your browser's print, download, or save commands.
Espacenet has partnered with Google Translate to create Patent Translate, which currently provides full-text translations between English and German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish patents. This feature will be extended in the coming years. See the Patent Translate FAQ for more information.
A useful guide to the patent procedures and numbering systems used by different countries is the publicly available, 2007 edition of the Derwent Global Patent Sources: An Overview of International Patents.
USPTO Patent Databases: The United States Patent & Trademark Office offers free access to the full text of U.S. patents and patent applications through its web site. Although it is a capable search system, viewing and printing patents can only be done one-page-at-a-time and requires downloading a special browser plug in.
Hence, to view and print the full-text of U.S. patents, we recommend either using a free patent fetcher (listed below) that automatically retrieves and creates a single multi-page document that can be printed or saved with a single mouse click or using the Espacenet Worldwide Patents site to search, print, and download U.S. patents. Free patent fetchers include:
- Free Patents Online - U.S. patents back to December 16, 1974, plus European patents (EP). Includes a full-featured search system, but especially handy for retrieving a known patent number. Free registration required to get images.
- Pat2pdf.org - U.S. Patents, 1790+. Searchable by patent number only.
- Patent Fetcher - Can fetch all patents available from the USPTO and Worldwide Patents (Espacenet) web sites.
The USPTO Issued Patents Database contains the full text of U.S. patents issued from 1790 to the present. Patents from 1790-1975 can be searched by patent number, issue date, or classification code only. Patents from 1976 to the present can be searched by keyword as well as patent number, classification code, inventor's name, assignee's (company's) name, issue and application date, etc. The USPTO Patent Applications Database contains the full text of patent applications published since March 15, 2001. We recommend that you consult the the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office's Index to the U.S. Patent Classification System in conjunction with its Manual of Classification (class number order) to determine the appropriate classification codes to use in your patent searching.
Please Note: USPTO uses a compressed TIFF file format for its full-page images of patents and patent applications. This format requires special software to view the files. For more information, including links to download the required software, go to: How to Access Full-Page Images.
PATENTSCOPE: Although this database does not cover U.S. patents, it does cover nearly 8 million patents from 26 countries including European (EP) and World (PCT) patents. Fourteen of the countries, mostly in South America, are not covered by the larger Espacenet Worldwide Patents database: Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Morocco, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Singapore, and Uruguay. See National Collections - Data Coverage for a listing of the countries and data fields searched.
Special features include free online translation of patent texts using Google Translate and an innovative cross-lingual search capability that automatically translates search terms into multiple languages and includes those terms in your query. PATENTSCOPE also includes excellent analysis and refining tools to narrow search results. Information from the results can be shown as tables, graphs, or pie charts. For example, a pie chart could be produced showing the number of patents from each country.
- Free Patents Online: Provides free full-text access to PDF versions of U.S. and European patents.
- Patent Lens: Free full-text patent searching of U.S., World (WO), Australian (AU) and European (EP) patents as far back as 1976 depending on country.
National & International Patent Offices
- U.S. Patent & Trademark Office
- Canadian Patents Database: This database provides access to Canadian patent descriptions ("bibliographic" information and abstracts) plus images from 1920 to the present for free.
- European Patent Office
- Japanese Patent Office Industrial Property Digital Library: Searchable database of patent information held by the Japanese Patent Office available for free via the Internet. Access consists of English summaries of patents and patent applications as well as Japanese text.
- Directory of Intellectual Property Offices around the world, A to Z, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.
- Copyright & Fair Use (UB Libraries)
- Protect Your Copyright (UB Libraries)
- U.S. Copyright Office (Library of Congress)
- Copyright Clearance Center Online
Library Patent Collections / Depositories
- U.S. Patent & Trademark Depository Library Program: Libraries designated as Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries (PTDLs) receive current issues of U.S. patents and maintain collections of earlier-issued patents as well as trademarks. In the Western New York area, the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library is the designated PTDL. For more information, call 716-858-7101.
- Patents and Trademark Information, New York State Library
- Patents & Trademarks at the New York Public Library
Commercial Patent Services
Delphion Intellectual Property Network (formerly the IBM Intellectual Property Network): Through this site, you can access the full images of U.S. Patent & Trademark Office patents issued from 1790 to the present for a fee. In addition, Delphion makes accessible to its customers patents and patent information from international patent-issuing bodies and from selected countries. For more information, see the Patent Collection Descriptions on their web site.
Thomson Reuters Intellectual Property Solutions: Thomson provides for-fee services in patent research and analysis, trademark research and protection, and intelectual assests management.
QPAT-US: A subscription-based web service for patents and patent information that provides for an annual fee access to the Pluspat database, comprehensive patent family searching, detailed legal status information, unlimited PDF patent copies, and full-text searching of published applications and patents from the United States and the European Patent Office.
Wiki on Patent Analysis, Mapping and Visualization Tools: This wiki lists and describes various tools and techniques for patent analysis, mapping, and visualization.