A patent protects a process or invention. It ensures that the owner has the sole right to make, use, or sell it, or grant permission to others to do so.
In return for this protection, the inventor must disclose technical details of the invention, which are published by the Patent Office.
Like any other property, a patent can be bought, sold, rented or hired.
Patents are a vital source of technical information, and can save time spent on duplicated research. They can also be useful as a source of information about a company for job-hunters and interview candidates.
There are several databases you can search to find patents. You can use them without a username or password, both on and off campus.
Search Google patents
Google patents has a friendly full-text search and downloadable PDFs from a range of patent offices around the world.
Further help is available from the Google patents help pages.
Find patents using Espacenet
The Espacenet patent database (European Patent Office) contains the full text and bibliographic details of more than 70 million patent documents worldwide from 1836 to present. Coverage depends on country.
Take a look at the Espacenet help brochure (PDF), which gives brief information about searching and the coverage of the database.
Find patents using USPTO
Search USPTO (US Patent and Trademark Office) for full text and bibliographic details of patents.
The database covers US patents issued from 1790 to the present, and published applications from 15 March 2001.
You must have a TIFF image viewer plug-in installed in your web browser to view and print the full text images.
Help can be found on the homepage of the databases. Help is available for both the Issued Patents and Published Applications databases.
You can also register for the USPTO Patent Alert service, which will send you information about new patents matching your subject area.
The Business and IP Centre Leeds is an excellent resource, holding copies of all British, US, European, and many other patents, and a comprehensive collection of indexes on CD-ROM or microfiche.
Our Document Supply service will try to obtain patents that aren't available on the web or from Patent Information Services.