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Patents: Patents

This guide contains advice about searching for Patents.

What is a Patent?


A patent may be defined as a grant by the State of exclusive rights for a limited time in respect of a new and useful invention (Grubb, P.W. 1999, Patents for chemicals, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, Clarendon Press: Oxford, p.1.).

Patents protect the intellectual property of the inventor, preventing unauthorised people from practicing the invention. Patents are granted for a particular territory, and an inventor wishing to have protection in a number of countries must obtain separate patents in each of them.

The European Patent convention requires in patents that the invention is new, that it must involve an inventive step and that it must be capable of industrial application. These requirements are fairly standard in all countries that have a system of patent application.

Key Patents Sites

United States Patent and Trademark Office
Searchable database of US patents with full text of both published patents and patent applications provided in TIFF format. To limit searches to title and abstract, select Advanced Search and enter ttl,abst/  before the terms. Boolean AND and OR is recognised. The truncation symbol is $ not *.

Europe’s Network of Patent Databases
Provides access to published patent documents from three databases: the EP (European Patent Office) database, the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) database and the worldwide database (72 different countries and regions).

Patent Offices

Databases & Search Engines

Patents Law & Commentary

Patents Trademarks & Related Rights

LexisNexis service. Updated regularly. Divided into three sections:

1. Commentary - provides “detailed commentary on Patents, Plant Breeder's Rights, Trade Marks, Confidential Information and Unfair Competition, written by expert practitioners regularly updated to include detailed discussion of the most recent case law”. Key cases, international conventions and new developments are covered.

2. Legislation - provides “the full text of all relevant legislation and selected international conventions”.

3. Bulletin - regular bulletins written by leading practitioners provide vital information on legislative amendments, recent decisions and policy developments. The home page defaults to View – Table of Contents. The Bulletin can be accessed via the drop down box.