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Patent Resources on the Web and in the Engineering Library: Getting Started

This guide directs you to materials that will help search for patent information

Library of Engineering & Science

Intellectual Property Glossary

What Are Patents?

A patent is a property right granted by a government agency (in the United States, it's the US Patent & Trademark Office) for a novel, useful, and non-obvious invention.  Patent protection lasts twenty years from the filing date and allows the inventor or their assignee to exclude other people from making, using, selling, or importing an invention.

Why Search Patents?

Patents are excellent sources of technical, legal, historical, and commercial information.  You might want to search patents because . . .

  • you want to get a patent on your new invention, and you need to figure out if someone else has already patented it.
  • you want to find the technical details of how an invention works.
  • you want to find out what a specific inventor or company is patenting, to give you a peek into their research and development activities.
  • you are interested in the history of science and technology.

How Do I Search Patents?

Patents can be difficult to search because they often use complicated, obscure legal-technical language.

The right way to do a patent search depends on what you're trying to find and how rigorous you need to be.  A basic exploratory search might take the form of a keyword search in a database like Google Patents or Derwent Innovations Index, using patent classifications to expand or narrow your search as needed.  A more rigorous patentability search, on the other hand, might follow the USPTO's official "Seven Step Strategy" process and use the official government patent searching tools.

General Patent Resources

Dave Zwicky

Dave Zwicky's picture
Dave Zwicky
WALC 3053
Library of Engineering & Science