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Engineering & Applied Science

A patent is granted to give the inventor an right to an invention for a specific period before patent becomes a public resource

What Is A Patent?

A patent is a property right granted to an inventor by the country in which they live/work.  In the United States, it is "the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling" the invention in the United States for a limited period of time (usually 20 years.)

Patents are issued to encourage new inventions by (1) protecting the right of the inventor to profit from the invention, and (2) making public the details of the invention to allow others to build on that knowledge.

The patent literature is a very useful source of business information (Who is developing products in a field? What are my competitors doing?); career information (What companies or universities might want someone with my interests/skills?) and technical information (What technology is available for my purpose?  How is a certain type of chemical synthesized?)

Author:  Chuck Huber
Chemical Sciences Librarian
Davidson Library
University of California
Santa Barbara, CA 

Patent Law And Treaties

Primary Patent Search Tools

One note about Google Patents: It only covers the most cited patents. You sometimes need a more efficient way to search for every patent. Despite this, I do highly recommend it as a general tool.

Patents Granted By Other Countries

Patent Searching Tips

Example for searching for a impeller for a centrifugal pump, using any of the Primary Search Tools:
 

  • At the next screen input "centrifugal pump" in term 1 box, then input "impeller" in term 2 box
  • Or if just working with one search bar type, "centrifugal pump" AND "impeller"
     

If you don't like your results, try using a USPTO Classification Code to look up the exact controlled search term. For example if you are working with a washing machine, you may need to try "agitator" instead of "impeller".

What if there's NOTHING similar patented?

  • Be EXTREMELY skeptical. Patent researchers know that every innovation comes from “prior art.”
     
  • Use Classes arranged in Alphabetical Order   (or similar term in other country's patent site) to find the best category for your idea.  Patent classification schedules are very detailed.
     
  • On the Patent Office home page, type the category number in the A1 Enter a US Patent Classification field (or similar field in other country's patent site, using that country's class arrangement))  The U.S. class field is at the top left.of the site.
     
  • Click “submit” and then look through that list to determine where your idea fits.
     
  • Be sure to go all the way down the list to the "Cross Reference Art Collections"(or similar term in other country's patent site)  to check for other categories.