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Patents: Locating Patents

Resources for finding, obtaining and understanding patents.

Tips for Locating Patents

Tips to Remember in Searching Patents:

  • Patents are a combination of a technical document and a legal document.  While they must describe an invention in sufficient detail for someone else "skilled in the art" to recreate it, the language used may not be the same language that you would expect in a journal article on the topic.  So, a simple keyword search is unlikely to be comprehensive.
  • While there are several free databases which index the patent literature, in general they do not offer advanced searching or analysis techniques.  There are commercial, value-added databases which do have such advanced features, but they are expensive to use, and, with a few key exceptions, UCSB does not subscribe to them.
  • If you need to do a thorough search of the patent literature, consult with a librarian.  For technical or business information, we can help you find what you need.
  • If you need a comprehensive search of the patent literature, as for a "prior art" search to determine if you have a patentable invention,  you will ultimately need to consult a professional patent searcher.
  • If you are interested in an in-depth look at patent searching, or are considering a career in patent information, see:

Patent Databases

  • U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Patent Search ( *FULL-TEXT*
    • This database covers United States patents only, from 1790 to the present.
    • There are separate searches for granted patents and published patent applications (2001 to present).
    • Patents and applications from 1976 to the present are full-text searchable. Patents from 1975 and before may only be searched by patent number or U.S. patent classification code.
    • Patents from 1976 to the present may be viewed as full-text web pages.  Page images of all patents are available as TIFF images, which require a special plug-in for display on Web browsers.  This plug-in is not currently available on UCSB Library workstations.
    • New Public Patent Search Tool at
  • AusPat ( 
    • Australian patents, in English.  Currently 1978-present; plans to expand back to 1904 with full text searching
  • Canadian Patents Database ( *FULL-TEXT*
    • Canadian patents; may be in English or French, 1869-present.
    • Patents prior to 1978 may be searched only by patent number, title, inventor or assignee name, or classification.  More recent patents are full-text searchable.
    • Patent images (cover page, abstract, claims, drawings and description, and, recently, representative drawing) are available as PDF files, up to a maximum of 300 pages.
  • (German Patent Database) ( *FULL-TEXT*
    • German patents 1877-present (including the former Federal Republic and Democratic Republic of Germany), plus patents from numerous other countries, with varying coverage dates.  German patents are all full-text searchable.
    • The search interface is available in German or English.
    • German patents are availabel as full-text PDF images.
  • Espacenet (European Patent Office Patent Database) ( *FULL-TEXT*
    • Espacenet is available in English, French or German. Esp@cenet also has local servers (see list) in the languages of every EPO member state.
    • It covers over 90 current and former patent-issuing authorities.  Dates of coverage vary widely by country.  Some European countries have records going back to the 19th century.  The European Patent Office itself began publishing patents in 1978.
    • Patents may be searched by keyword, patent numbers, inventor, date of publication and/or International or European patent classification codes.
    • Full-text images are availble for many patents (including some US patents or their equivalents) as PDF files.
  • FreePatentsOnline (FPO) ( *FULL-TEXT*
    • This free, ad-supported comercial site allows searching of US, European Patent Office, WIPO and Japanese patents.
    • You may search by a variety of fields, or view prepared searches on popular topics or companies.  You may set up saved searches and.or RSS alerts.
    • Full-text is available for US, EP and WO patents, but not for JP patents.  To download PDF versions of patents, you must register to create a free account.
    • This database allows chemical searching using moleular formulas or SMILES strings and by structure, substructure or similiarity searching using the SureChem service.
  • ( *FULL-TEXT*
    • This free, ad-supported commercial site is primarily designed for current awareness of US patent applications only (2001-present.)
    • It is browsable by broad keywords, by major companies, and by US patent classification codes.  You may set up XML alerts for keywords or codes of your choice.
    • Full-text of the applications is available as HTML text.  No page images or graphics are provided.
  • Google Patent Search ( *FULL-TEXT*
    • This free ad-supported commercial site allows full-text searching of the entire US patents database (1790-present.)  the European Patent Office, World Intellectual Property Organization, and 20 important national patent collections (see Google Patents Coverage for details.)
    • Patents may be searched by keyords, patent classification codes and metadata (authors, assignees, dates, etc.)  Google is in the process of adding a facility for searching for chemical structures in paents by SMILES strings.
    • Note: Full-text indexing of pre-1976 patents is done by scanning the patents and using optical character recognition software (OCR).  This process is highly imperfect and often introduces errors in keywords, inventors' names, etc.  Be aware that you may miss useful documents in any search of the pre-1976 literature.
    • Patent images may be downloaded as PDF files.
    • When viewing a patent, you may click on "Find Prior Art" to search Google Patents, Google Scholar and Google Books for patents, journal articles and books that share keywords with the patent, and so might constitute prior art for the patent.
  • (
    •, Inc. is the world’s leader in defensive publications, in the Prior Art Database. Defensive publications do not claim patent rights for an invention, but establish prior art so that someone else cannot patent the invention and preclude the publisher from using/manufacutring/selling the invention.  Disclosures can be published in any language, and they are searchable in those languages online. Unique identifiers indicate documents containing chemical structures as well as publications open for comment in the IP Discussion Forum. Disclosures are published every day online and also appear in the printed Journal. The Prior Art Database is freely available to search, and some, but not all, full-text disclosure documents are available as free downloads.
    • also features a freely-searchable Library of Patents and Non-Patent Literature, which includes US patents and patent applications, the Prior Art Database, and patents, applications and English translations of the bibliographic information and abstracts of many of these from the People's Republic of China.
    • also provides fee-based services for patentability, freedom to operate and other searches.
  • Japan Platform for Patent Information ( *FULL-TEXT*
    • Provided by the National Center for Industrial Property Information and Training, this site is available in both Japanese and English and may be searched in either language.
    • The database includes Japanese utility patents, design patents and trademarks.  Full text of patents is available in both Japanese and English (machine translation).
    • Note that the database will display at most 1000 patents in an answer set.  If your search retrieves more, you will be asked to revise the search.
  • Latipat (
    • This database, hosted by Espacenet, indexes the patents of 20 Latin American nations.  Coverage varies by country.
    • In English, Spanish and Portuguese.
  • The Lens ( *FULL-TEXT*
    • This free database (formerly PatentLens) from the Initiative for Open Innovation, allows searching of US, European, Australian and WIPO patents from 1976-present. The interface is available in English (both US and UK), French and Japanese.
    • Full-text is available as HTML text or (in most cases) PDF files.
    • Special features include: patent family and legal status information on most patents; protein and DNA sequence searching; "patent landscapes" for important subject areas, graphical analysis of patent sets, patent citations etc..
  • Pat2PDF ( *FULL-TEXT*
    • US patents only; searchable by patent number only.
    • Retrieves patent page images from the USPTO and converts them to a PDF file.  Since this is done page-by-page and on-request, it can be a time-consuming process for lengthy patents.  However, it is free, and delivers crisp page images in PDF format.
    • PATENTSCOPE is the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) search service.  It allows searching of WO patent applications from 1978 to present, as well as patents from a number of national patents offices (e.g. Russia) and the EPO and Latipat.  The interface is available in English, French and Spanish.
    • Full-text is available as HTML pages.  Some documents are available in limited PDF format.
    • Patentscope includes a number of useful visualization tools which can generate bar or pie charts of countries, assignees, inventors, etc. from the results of a search.
  • SumoBrain ( *FULL-TEXT*
    • Free patent searching site.  Covers US patents and applications, WIPO and EPO patents and  abstracts of Japanese patents.
    • Basic, advanced and Fielded searching available, including cited references and legal information.
    • Folders, saved searches, search alerts and collaborative features are also available.
    • The site provides transcribed full text, with links to cited US patent records.  Note that SumoBrain does not provide PDF or other images of the original patent documents.
  • SureChEMBL ( *FULL-TEXT*
    • This service of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory provides free searching of USPTO, EPO, WIPO and Jananese patents.
    • In addition to bibliographic searching, SureChEMBL allows chemical structure searching (exact, substructure, similarity) of substances reported in the patents.

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