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Library of Engineering & Science
Intellectual Property Glossary
Copyrights protect literary, artistic, and musical materials. They are administered by the Library of Congress and last for the life of the author plus seventy additional years.
Patents protect inventions. They are administered by the United States Patent & Trademark Office and last up to twenty years from date of filing.
Trademark protects identifiers (logos, names, slogans, etc.) that are used to identify the source of a commercial good or service. They are administered by the USPTO and they last as long as they remain in active use.
Trade Secrets protect secret information, often information that isn't patentable or is too sensitive to patent. They only last as long as they're secret, and are protected by legal documents like non-disclosure agreements.
Major Patent Databases
Derwent Innovations Index
This database covers international patents and rewrites the titles in easier-to-read language. Most topics go back to the 1960s. Chemical structure searching is available. This is a subscription database for Purdue users, and not open to the general public. Derwent is recommended for researchers and students, but is not the best choice for a formal patentability search.
This free and open database of international patents has a modern search interface and offers some unique patent searching tools, notably gene sequence searching.
This database features Google's easy-to-use search interface, but Google's search algorithm can be inconsistent when dealing with legal-technical patent language. You can use it for doing a first pass when patentability searching, but make sure to use other resources as well.
Chemical Abstracts (SciFinder)
Scifinder covers chemical patents as well as journal articles, conference papers, and book chapters on chemistry and chemistry-related topics. It is licensed for Purdue users only and requires an additional registration.
U.S. Patent Office Search Databases
7 Step Search Strategy - (USPTO - PTRC)
This is a brief one-page guide to patentability searching. It is focused on USPTO databases.
U.S. Issued Patents and Published Applications
The USPTO databases, unlike other patent databses, separates patents and patent applications into different databases. To do a thorough search, you must use both. Issued patents are available from 1789-present (although full-text searching is only available from the mid-1970s) and published applications are available from March 2001.
PubWest and PubEast
These are the databases that patent examiners use in the course of their work. The systems are very powerful, but difficult to use. PubEAST and PubWEST are only available by appointment. Contact Dave Zwicky for more information.
Specialized Patent Office Databases
Patent Application Information System (PAIR)
PAIR is a tool for finding public, but not easily accessible, information about patents and patent applications. You can see all of the legal filings, supporting documents, and correspondence between an inventor and a patent examiner for a given document.
Patent Assignments Database
Who owns the rights to a given patent? If the individual or organization to whom the rights to the patent have been assigned is change after it's published, that data is recorded here.
Publication Site for Issued and Published Sequences (PSIPS)
This database contains gene sequence data associated with specific patents. Search by document number and date.
Tutorials for Searching (USPTO)
Patents are tough to search using keywords because of the complex legal and technical language they contain. To help patent searchers, patent offices use classification systems to group similar technologies together. If you find the right class, you can find all of the inventions related to that type of technology, regardless of how they're described.
Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC)
CPC is the patent classification system that is currently used by the United States and the European Patent Office. Other countries may also move to this system in the future. CPC is based on the International Patent Classification (IPC) system, but features many more sub-categories for more precise searching.
CPC Search Tool
The CPC system is arranged hierarchically, with each additional digit or letter adding a layer of complexity. Espacenet's CPC browser is an excellent way of exploring (or searching) this system to find the right code for your invention.
International Patent Classification (IPC)
IPC is the patent classification system used most commonly by patent offices around the world.
United States Patent Classification (USPC)
USPC is the legacy system used by the United States Patent & Trademark Office until 2016. It is no longer in use, although it can still be searched in some databases.