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ChE 495: Patents


What is a Patent?

A patent is a government grant that gives you, the inventor, the right to keep others from making, using or selling your inventions. You could think of a patent as a contract between you and the government that protects your rights as an inventor. In return for this protection you give the government a complete description of your invention. 

Patents are vital resources for businesses, researchers, inventors, academics, and others who need to keep abreast of developments in their fields.

Patents are also an important means of sharing know-how, because each patent document describes a new aspect of a technology in clear and specific terms and is available for anyone to consult.

Source: Canadian Intellectual Property Office

Why Search for Patents?

There are some very good reasons to search patents:

  • patents can contain a wealth of specific technical data and drawings
  • 80% of patent information is not published anywhere else!
  • patents and patent applications are usually published before journal articles

But remember...

  • all patent applications are published (even silly ones!)
  • patents are NOT peer-reviewed, they are "examined", the claims made in patents are just that
  • so the processes or procedures claimed in a patent do not necessarily have to "work" for a patent to be granted
  • the language and vocabulary used in patent documents can be obscure - therefore keyword searching for patents is not always useful (for example - this is the patent for the iPad)

Google Patents

Google Patents includes over 87 million patent publications from 17 patent offices around the world, as well as many technical documents and books indexed in Google Scholar and Google Books.


Excellent coverage of the chemical patent literature

European Patent Office (EPO) Database Espacenet

Espacenet offers free access to more than 70 million patent documents worldwide (70+ countries including Canada and the U.S.), containing information about inventions and technical developments from 1836 to today, updated weekly. Often considered the best place to start a patent search.

  • See this video for an introduction to searching in Espacenet

United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) - Search for Patents

The USPTO houses full text for patents issued in the U.S. from 1976 to the present and TIFF images for all patents from 1790 to the present. (You can install a free TIFF reader that is designed in part for reading U.S. patent office files).

Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO)

The Canadian Patent Database lets you access over 75 years of patent descriptions and images. You can search, retrieve and study more than 2,000,000 Canadian patent documents.