Patents

Key Resources

Patent Office Databases Espacenet | U.S. Patents| Canadian Patents
Other Databases FreePatentsOnline | Patent Lens
Download Patents Google Patents | Pat2PDF

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Download Patents

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U.S. patents in PDF format, 1790 to present.
U.S. patents in PDF format, 1790 to present.

Importing Patent Citations into Reference Managers

Importing Patent Citations into Reference Managers

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
  • JP inventor name data missing
  • Patent number maps to KW field
  RIS (Patent Lens) AB, IN, PY, TI 1  
  RIS (SciFinder) AB, AN, IN, KW, PY, PP, TI, TP None
  • AN maps to Issuer field
  PDF (All) N/A N/A
  • Doesn't work for patents in PDF format
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
  • FD and PD map to ID field.
  • Chemical Abstracts subject headings, section titles, and accession number also included.
  RefGrab-It N/A 1
  • Very poor results from FPO, USPTO and Patent Lens
WizFolio (WizAdd) Espacenet N/A N/A
  • Not functional as of Feb. 15, 2012
  FreePatentsOnline AB, AN, AP, CN, FD, ID, IN, PD, PN, PP, TI None
  • EP, US, and WO patent claims display in reference
  Google Patents AB, AP, FD, ID, IN, PN, TI None
  • US patents only
  • TI did not export consistently
  SciFinder N/A N/A
  • Not functional as of Feb. 15 , 2012
  Scirus IN, PD, TI 1
  • WizAdd downloaded only the last selected patent in a list
  • Patent office and TP maps to Journal field
  USPTO AB, AN, AP, CN, FD, ID, IN, PD, PN, PP, TI None
  • Export up to 50 patents at a time
  PDF (All) N/A N/A
  • Doesn't work for patents in PDF format
  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
  • CN maps to Place field
  RIS (SciFinder) AB, AN, ID, IN, PN, PP, TP None
  • AN maps to References field
  Browser N/A 1
  • Very poor results from FPO, USPTO and Patent Lens

*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

Patent Databases

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Publication coverage: 1836 - present
Canadian patent records, 1869 to present; full-text documents, 1920 to present.
U.S. patents, 1790 to present and published applications, 2001 to present. Patents prior to 1976 can be retrieved by number, date and classification. TIFF viewer required to view/print patent documents.
International patent applications, 1978 to present.
AU, EP, US and WO patent documents, 1970s to present.

Patent Classification

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System used by most patent offices as a primary or secondary classification. Consists of 77,000 classifications.
System used by the USPTO to classify patent documents. Contains 450 classes and 150,000 subclasses.
System based on IPC used by the EPO to classify patent documents. Consists of 130,000 subdivisions.

Inventors

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Canada Science and Technology Museum
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Boston)
Dozens of inventor profiles compiled by the Lemelson-MIT Program.
Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation
Since 1982 the Manning Innovation Award has recognized Canadian innovators who have developed and successfully marketed a new concept, product, process or procedure. Approximately 100 Canadians have received the award.
National Inventors Hall of Fame (Akron, Ohio)
Biographies of hundreds of inventors inducted into the National Hall of Fame.
National Science & Technology Medals Foundation (Washington, D.C.)
First awarded in 1985, the National Medal of Technology and Innovation recognizes individuals, teams (up to four individuals), companies or divisions of companies for their successful development and commercialization of technological products, processes and concepts.
U.S. Library of Congress

Pharmaceuticals

Many drugs and biologically active chemicals have been patented. The American Chemical Society estimates that more than half of all new chemical substances are disclosed first in patent applications. Here are some resources for locating patents that cover specific drugs.
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Health Canada
Alphabetical listing of medicines and the associated patents, patent expiry dates and other related information. Search by active ingredient, brand name, Drug Information Number (DIN) and patent number.
Covers 10,000 chemicals, drugs and biologicals. Literature references include key patents.
Covers prescription drug products, over-the-counter drugs and discontinued drugs. Search by active ingredient, brand name, owner and patent number.

Tutorials


Tutorials

How to Find a Company's Patents


How to Find a Company's Patents

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.


Northern Electric and Manufacturing Co., 1895-1914
Northern Electric Co., Ltd., 1914-1995
Nortel Networks, 1995-2008

Try searching these names in the Canadian Patents Database.

Search Tips

  • Be aware of name changes. Until the 1970s Minneapolis-based 3M was known as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co. You will find many patents under both names. If you're not sure of the company's current and past names, go to the company's website or use a business directory such as a Hoover's Company Records.
  • Be aware of company names, nicknames and abbreviations. For example, IBM's full name is International Business Machines; Research in Motion is often abbreviated RIM. Dupont's full name is E.I. du Pont de Nemours. Toronto-based Infrastructures for Information is also known as i4i.
  • Be aware of company subsidiaries and spin-offs. For example, Tupperware's numerous food and storage container patents are actually assigned to its parent company, Dart Industries. The Columbia Insurance Company, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, owns many patents originally assigned to paint maker Benjamin Moore, another BH subsidiary. You can use a business directory such as Hoover's Company Records to find information on company subsidiaries and spin-offs.
  • Be aware of phonetic translations of western names into non-western languages and then back into western languages. For example, "Sipadun Mineral Resources" on a Chinese patent application is actually Sparton Resources.

How to Find a Patent Document


How to Find a Patent Document

[Watch a tutorial]

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:

  • Application number: the number assigned to the patent application when it is filed.
  • Publication number: the number assigned when the patent application is published eighteen months after filing.
  • Patent number: the number assigned when the application becomes a patent.

The patent number usually appears in the top right-hand corner of the front page of a patent document.

Number Formats

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).

patent number formats

Search Tips

  • Look for a patent number on the product or packaging. Many companies print patent document numbers on their products as public notification of their patent rights. Use the patent number to search and retrieve a copy of the patent from a patent database.
  • Identify the company that makes (or made) the product. Look for company names on both the product and its packaging. Remember that the company that distributes a product may be different from its manufacturer.
  • Search the name of the inventor, if you know it, in a patent database.
  • Visit the company's website. Many companies publish details about their products on their websites.
  • Finally, search the product name in a trademark database in order to determine the name of the owner. Search the owner's name in a patent database.

Guides

How to Research the Legal Status of a Patent

How to Research the Legal Status of a Patent

Expired Patent The legal status of a patent document is often difficult to determine. It is always best to consult an experienced patent attorney about the validity or legal status of a patent before making a business decision. There are many conditions that might affect the legal status of a patent document. For example:
  • Has the patent expired due to the owner's failure to pay maintenance fee? In Canada, maintenance fees must be paid annually after the first anniversary of the patent's issue. In the U.S., patent maintenance fees for utility and plant patents must be paid at 3.5, 7.5 and 11.5 years after issue. Almost fifty percent of patents issued in the U.S. expire before the third maintenance fee is due.
  • Has the patent application become abandoned due to the applicant's failure to answer a patent office action?
  • Has a divisional application been filed?
  • Has the invention been patented in other countries?
  • Has a third party requested a reexamination of an issued patent?
  • Has a reissue patent application been filed?
  • Has an international patent application been filed?
  • Has a certificate of correction or disclaimer been issued?
  • Is the patent involved in any current litigation?
  • Has the ownership of the patent changed?
Some patent databases will automatically calculate the expiration date of a patent based on its filing or issue date. This method is unreliable since most patents expire before their full 20-year term is up.

How to Search Patents by Subject

How to Search Patents by Subject

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.

  1. What is the structure of the invention?
  2. What is the function of the invention? Is it a product or a process?
  3. How is the invention used?

Note the important keywords, synonyms and equivalent terms.

Video
 
 
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
     

How to Read a Patent Document


How to Read a Patent Document

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.

Anatomy of a Canadian Patent

Anatomy of a U.S. Patent

How to Find an Inventor's Patents


How to Find an Inventor's Patents

[Watch a tutorial] video

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

Search Tips

Searching by inventor name is relatively straightforward but remember to consider:

  • Transliterations of western names into non-western languages and then back. For example, "Suzannu Buaajinia Sumisu" translated phonetically in a Japanese patent application actually is Suzanne Virginia Smith.
  • Abbreviations, e.g. Richd. (Richard) and Jos. (Joseph). Abbreviated first names are common on patents from the 19th century.
  • Nicknames, e.g. Bob (Robert), Bert (Elbert), Harry (Harold), etc.
  • Misspelled names (patent offices don't correct misspellings).
  • Non-English spellings, e.g. Mihal or Michel (Michael).
  • Name changes, e.g. Susan Smith, Susan Smith-Jones. etc.
  • Name variations, e.g. Frederic Baur and Fredric Baur; Dean Kamen and Dean L. Kamen, etc.

How to Find Patents Associated with a Product

How to Find Patents Associated with a Product

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.

Koosh Ball Segway Claritin BlackBerry

Search Tips

  • The name of a product in most cases has no connection to the patent(s) related to it.
  • Look for a patent number on the product or packaging. Many companies print patent numbers on their products as a public notification. Use the patent number to search and retrieve a copy of the patent from a patent database.
  • Look for company names on both the product and its packaging. Remember that the company that distributes a product may be different from its manufacturer. Search the name of the company in a patent database.
  • Search the name of the product's inventor.
  • Visit the company's website. Many companies publish details about their products on their websites and in their product literature.
  • Search the web.
  • Finally, search the product name in a trademark database in order to determine the name of the owner. Search the owner's name in a patent database.

Attorneys and Agents

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Selected list of Canadian patent agents. The CIPO will provide a list of registered agents for any region of Canada upon request.
Database of patent attorneys and agents registered with the USPTO.
2001-
Data and rankings on patent attorneys registered with the USPTO.

Guides and Manuals

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Licensing & Royalty Rates

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Patent Offices


Patent Offices

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Patent Statistics & Analysis


Patent Statistics

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World Intellectual Property Organization
Collection of patent landscape reports on various topics produced by international organizations, national intellectual property offices, non-governmental organizations and private sector entities.
UK Intellectual Property Office
Collection of worldwide and UK patent landscape reports on graphene, nanotechnology, regenerative medicine, recycling technologies, etc.
Canadian Intellectual Property Office
General patent statistics published in the annual report of the CIPO, 1995-present.
USPTO calendar and fiscal year statistics.
International statistics on patents, utility models, marks, industrial designs, plant varieties and microorganisms.
Annual patent statistics compiled by the European Patent Office, Japan Patent Office and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Dynamic map that displays clusters of patents based on geographic location of the inventor or owner.
Statistical reports and studies of scientific and technical research, funding and patent output.(Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development)

Guides and Manuals

Websites


Websites

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