|Patent Office Databases||Espacenet | U.S. Patents| Canadian Patents|
|Other Databases||FreePatentsOnline | Patent Lens|
|Download Patents||Google Patents | Pat2PDF|
Importing patent references into a reference manager can be frustrating. Although dozens of public patent databases offer free access to millions of patent documents, almost none have an citation export function. Some reference managers support direct exporting from patent databases but the results can be disappointing. The table below compares the performance of some of the most popular reference managers with various patent databases and citation file formats.
WizFolio claims to support direct exporting from Espacenet, FreePatentsOnline, Google Patents, SciFinder, Scirus and the USPTO. However, as of February 15, 2012, direct exporting from Espacenet and SciFinder was non-functional. Very good results were obtained from FreePatentsOnline and the USPTO. RefWorks and Zotero also performed poorly with several patent databases.
Mendeley and WizFolio do an excellent job of extracting journal citation data embedded in PDF files. However, this does not work with patent PDF files because they do not contain embedded metadata.
Patent Lens, SciFinder and Scirus export patent references in RIS format, which is the standard citation format supported by most reference managers. However, Patent Lens will only export single records. SciFinder's tagged file format is a better choice than RIS when importing into RefWorks because it includes more data fields.
Comparison of Reference Managers and Supported Patent Databases and File Formats
|Citation Manager||Supported Database or File Format||Exported Fields*||Export Limit||Notes|
|Mendeley||Scirus||AB, IN, PY, TI, TP||10||
|RIS (Patent Lens)||AB, IN, PY, TI||1|
|RIS (SciFinder)||AB, AN, IN, KW, PY, PP, TI, TP||None||
|RefWorks||RIS (All)||AB, AN, CN, ID, IN, PN, PY, TP, URL||None|
|Tagged format (SciFinder)||AB, AN, AP, CN, FD, ID, IN, KD, PD, PN, PP, PY, TI, TP||None||
|FreePatentsOnline||AB, AN, AP, CN, FD, ID, IN, PD, PN, PP, TI||None||
|Google Patents||AB, AP, FD, ID, IN, PN, TI||None||
|Scirus||IN, PD, TI||1||
|USPTO||AB, AN, AP, CN, FD, ID, IN, PD, PN, PP, TI||None||
|RIS ( Patent Lens)||AB, AP, CN, ID, IN, PN, TI||1|
|RIS (SciFinder)||AB, ID, IN, PP, PN, TI||None|
|Zotero||RIS (Patent Lens)||AB, AP, CN, FD, ID, IN, PN, TI, TP, URL||1||
|RIS (SciFinder)||AB, AN, ID, IN, PN, PP, TP||None||
*Exported Field Codes
AB - Abstract
AN - Assignee name
AP - Application number
CN - Country
FD - Filing (Application) date
ID - Issue date
IN - Inventor name
KD - Kind code
PD - Publication date
PN - Patent number
PP - Pages
PY - Year
TI - Title
TP - Reference type
Patents are granted only to inventors but can be sold, licensed and transferred to other individuals, companies, banks, universities and government agencies. Most companies require their employees to assign their patent rights to the company. When an inventor sells or transfers his or her patent to a company, the patent is said to have been assigned. The owner of a patent is often referred to as the assignee.
When an inventor assigns his or her rights during the application process, the granted patent will list the assignee. If the inventor assigned their patent after it was granted, the patent will not show the assignee.
Companies change their names as a result of mergers, acquisitions, changes in ownership or rebranding exercises. When this happens, patent offices do not retrospectively update their records. Patents issued after the name change will have the company's new name while older patents will still bear the former name.
Northern Electric and Manufacturing was founded in 1895 as a maker of telecommunications equipment for Canada's early telephone industry. In 1914 the company merged with the Imperial Wire and Cable Co. to form the Northern Electric Company, Ltd. In 1995 it changed its name to Nortel Networks. In order to find all the Canadian patents assigned to Nortel and its predecessor companies, you would have to search its current and historical names.|
The fastest and easiest way to retrieve a patent document from a patent database is by its publication or patent number. All patent documents are identified by one or more numbers, including:
The patent number usually appears in the top right-hand corner of the front page of a patent document.
Patent document numbers consist of three parts: a country code that identifies the country of origin, a document number and a kind code that identifies the type of document. Common country codes include CA (Canada), DE (Germany), EP (European Patent Office), JP (Japan) and US (United States). Kind codes include A (published application), B (US patent) and C (CA patent).
Write a brief but accurate description of the invention or technology. Avoid broad or generic terms such as "process" and "device". Drawing a sketch may help you identify important features. Your description should address the following questions.
Note the important keywords, synonyms and equivalent terms.
|Search the keywords in a patent database. Limiting your search to keywords in the title and abstract will produce better results.||Video|
|Review the retrieved patents. Are any of them similar to your invention? Note the patent classifications assigned to these patents. If none of the patents relate to your invention, go back to Step 2 and try different keywords.||Video|
|Search the patent classifications you identified in Step 3.||Video|
|Review the retrieved patents. Refine your search.||Video|
|Check the cited references in the patents you retrieved. These can lead you to additional related patents.||Video|
A patent is a right granted by a government that allows an inventor to prevent others from making, using, selling or importing the patent owner's invention for a limited time. Patent rights are enforceable only in the country in which they are granted.
In Canada and the U.S., the term of a patent is twenty years from the date of application. The patent application process can take several years depending on the complexity of the invention. Patents cannot be renewed. When a patent expires the invention goes into the public domain where anyone is free to make, use, sell or import it.
Patents are granted for new and useful inventions, including products, machines, compositions of matter, processes or improvements on any of these. You can not patent a scientific principle, abstract idea, method of doing business, or written or artistic work. Some countries, including Canada, do not grant patents for medical therapies, computer software or genetically modified animals and plants.
Under patent law, patent applications must disclose the true inventor or inventors. In most countries, including Canada, patents are granted to the first inventor to file an application. In the U.S. patents are awarded to the inventor who was the first to conceive of an invention even if they are not the first to file an application. These two systems are known respectively as "first-to-file" and "first-to-invent."
Michael Lazaridis is the founder and co-CEO of Research in Motion and inventor of the BlackBerry. Mr. Lazaridis has dozens of patents, but you won't find any of them by searching "Michael Lazaridis." Instead, he uses the Greek spelling of his first name, "Mihal," on patent applications.
Try searching both names in the Canadian Patents Database.
Photo credit: RIM
Searching by inventor name is relatively straightforward but remember to consider:
There are hundreds of thousands of patented products on the market, most of which are known by a brand name or trademark. However, product names usually are not found in patent documents. The reason for this is because companies tend to file patent applications long before considering product names and trademarks. Patent rules also discourage the use of product names in patent applications.
Move the cursor over the pictures below to see the titles of the patents associated with these well-known products.