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Information Networking Institute: Patents and Trademarks

Research guide for the Information Networking Institute

Patent Search Systems

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About Patents and Trademarks


A patent is a government license that gives the holder exclusive rights to a process, design, or new invention for a designated period of time.  In the U.S. granting a patent means “to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States” for a limited time.

A trademark is a word, name, symbol or device which is used in trade with goods to indicate the source of the goods and to distinguish them from the goods of others.  Trademark rights may be used to prevent others from using a confusingly similar mark, but not to prevent others from making the same goods or from selling the same goods or services under a clearly different mark.


In the U.S., patents and trademarks are issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  U.S. patents are effective only within the U.S, U.S. territories, and U.S. possessions.  Each country has its own granting institution.  At the international level, the licensing process is facilitated by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a specialized agency of the United Nations.
Anyone applying for a patent or registering a trademark or design, whether at the national or international level, is required to determine whether their creation is new or is owned or claimed by someone else.

Where to Search for Patents?

U.S. Patents

        Google Patents

Use as an initial starting point for investigating patents up to those published in the last few months. Google Patents also provides patents in PDF format.  For a more comprehensive search, go to the USPTO or other patent offices, such as European Patents.
Complete listing of U.S. patents from 1790 to the present.  The results include the fulltext of patents, as well as TIFF images.
You can also search for patent applications since March 2001.

This is another option for patent searching that allows you to save patents to your account.  Fulltext searching of U.S. patents and applications.  Set-up a free account to download patents in PDF format and to search chemical patents by structure, substructure and chemical name.

Free conversion of U.S. patents to PDF format.  Enter patent number and it will be converted on the fly to a downloadable PDF file.
Is one of over 80 U.S. Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries.  The Reference Services Department holds a microfilm collection of the fulltext of all U.S. Patents.  The Library also maintains current files of registered and pending trademarks.

International Patents   

Describes themselves as  providing access to more then 1 million international Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) applications in full text format on the day of publication. Abstracts in English, with full patent image in the language of the inventor's country.  
1920-present.  Searchable worldwide patents database from the European Patents Office (EPO).  Free patent information with fulltext patents.  Search recent patent applications from EP member states; search patents/view images from EPO, France, Germany, Switzerland, U.K., U.S., WIPO; search abstracts, bibliographic data from China, Japan, etc.
1976- present.  Search the Patents Abstracts of Japan by keyword, publication number, inventor.  Includes legal status information from 1990 forward.  Database search page is in English but you must use Emperor's year for years prior to 1999.

How to Search for Patents?

  • For an overview of how to conduct a U.S. patent search, watch the 35-minute presentation from the USPTO. (Needs Adobe Presenter)

By Subject

  1. Go to the USPTO database and select Quick Search.  Enter keywords in the search box.
  2. Find a patent that is close to what you're looking for.
  3. Note the U.S. Classification Number / Subclass for the patent.
  4. Do a search of that Class / Subclass in the USPTO database to find more patents on that subject.

OR ...

  1. Go to the Index to the U.S. Patent Classification System and search for common terms or keywords.
  2. Use the Class / Subclass numbers you found to check the Manual of U.S. Patent Classification to see if they are on target.
  3. Search by Class / Subclass numbers in the USPTO database.

By Patent Number

  1. Go to the USPTO database.
  2. Select Patent Number Search or Publication Number Search.

You can use the same method of searching in other patent databases on the web.


    NOTE:  In order to perform an exhaustive search, additional methods must be used such as international patent documents and the review of non-patent literature.  That is why it is recommended that you contact a registered attorney or agent.  For a listing of registered patent attorneys, search the USPTO listing.

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