What are patents?
A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
There are three types of patents:
- Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof;
- Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture; and
- Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.
How do you search for patents and prior art?
You can search for both issued patents and patent applications on the USPTO's website.
- Use USPTO Patent Full-Text and Image Database (PatFT) to find issued patents
- Use USPTO Patent Application Full-Text and Image Database (AppFT) to find applications for patents
Additionally, you can search Google Patents, but know that the information will not be as current as the USPTO's resources. Also, Google data mines searches, so be aware.
How can I find patents from foreign countries?
You can find patents from other countries by searching the patent office's websites.
Below are a few key patent offices:
- Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) - http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/cipointernet-internetopic.nsf/eng/home
- European Patent Office - https://www.epo.org/index.html
- Chinese Patent Office (SIPO) - http://english.sipo.gov.cn/