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Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Resources to search for patents

Search Strategy Tips

Keyword searching

  • Specialized and technical language can be challenging to identify as keywords
  • Default search is generally the entire patent, which retrieves a large number of results
  • Use Field search technique (title, abstract) to find more relevant results

Classification searching

  • Classification helps bring together similar devices and concepts, even when different terms have been used to describe them
  • This approach is recommended by experts for subject searching.

About Patents

  • Conduct a prior art search in preparation of applying for a patent, or to determine if patents exist that might govern your freedom to operate with a new process or product.
  • Look for design inspiration or for benchmarking. Patents can be read as a technical report or manual.
  • As a form of competitive intelligence. You can identify the innovators in a field, or discover the research strategies of companies by the patents they file.

Patents are part of the intellectual property landscape along with copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets. A patent is a legal and technical document that gives the owner the right to exclude others from making, using or selling their inventions for a limited period of years. You can let someone practice your invention through licensing (you still own the patent and collect a royalty) or assigning the patent to them (you give up ownership).

There are three main types of patents.

  • Utility patents cover new machines (mechanical invention with moving parts), new manufactures (mechanical invention having no moving parts, e.g., hammer, screwdriver), new compositions of matter (new chemicals, polymers and the like)
  • Design patents are new, original ornamental designs for an article of manufacture; subject matter can relate to configuration or shape of an object, to the surface ornamentation on an object, or both; normally consist of a drawing of the ornamental design and a simple claim to the design which is illustrated in the patent
  • Plant patents normally refer to asexually reproduced, new and distinct varieties of plants; types of plants eligible for patent protection include mutants, hybrids, and new seedlings, other than tuber propagated plants or those found in an uncultivated state.

Drawings - illustrations of the invention; essential features usually indicated by reference numbers

Background - helps to explain what is known about the technical field at the time of filing; usually written without legal or technical jargon

Summary - summarizes the invention and explains how it solves the problem(s) identified in the background

Detailed Description - describes the invention in sufficient detail to enable a skilled person to perform the method and/or produce the product disclosed in the patent; may define certain terms used elsewhere in the patent

Claims - most important part of patent - they define the legal scope of the invention; all patents must include at least one claim