A patent is a legal contract and intellectual property (IP) right which protects a new invention, by giving the owner the right for a limited period of time to prevent others from exploiting the invention without permission.
It means that the invention cannot be commercially made, used, distributed or sold without the patent owner's consent. It gives a detailed and technical description of the invention, and as such contains much information that may never be published in any other format.
To ensure legal protection for the invention, individuals and companies generally apply for a patent at the earliest possible stage; this means that new patents often provide the most up-to-date information available in a particular field, appearing before journal articles are published or new products reach the market
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The rules governing what is patentable vary between countries. However, generally the invention must:
Items which are not patentable include:
A patent allows the inventor to:
To keep a UK patent in force, it must be renewed on the fourth anniversary of the filing date, and then annually. It can be renewed for up to a maximum of 20 years. The inventor can choose not to renew it or to voluntarily cancel it at any time.
Differing rules apply in other legal jurisdictions.
The Intellogist website provides much useful information. The Search System Reports section contains reviews of free and commercial patent search systems. The Interactive Patent Coverage Map offers a clickable world map enabling you to find the searchable patent databases that cover specific countries.The Quick Table Comparisons section allows side-by-side comparison of the patent search systems that have been reviewed by the Intellogist team . The Resource Finder section provides links to a range of search systems, databases, publications and websites for specific science and technology areas.
FPO (FreePatentsOnline) is a free search engine for international patents, patent applications and patent abstracts. You can create an account, which allows you to save searches, organize, annotate and share documents, and set up alerts to notify you when new documents of interest are published.
Many of the national and international patent offices provide searchable patents databases, for example:
European Patent Office (EPO): the EPO's collection of over 90 million international patent documents is available online via the free Espacenet service. You can obtain official copies of European patent documents (applications and granted patents) via the European Publication Server.
Intellectual Property Office (UK): the official government body responsible for UK intellectual property rights, which is responsible for examining and issuing or rejecting patents. You can search Ipsum to check the status and access information on UK patent applications. For greater searching functionality, use the Espacenet service of the European Patent Office.
United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the federal agency responsible for granting US patents and registering trademarks. You can search for US patents and patent applications in the Patent full-text databases.
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is a self-funding agency of the United Nations (UN), and is the global forum for intellectual property (IP) services, policy, information and cooperation. Its activities include services to protect IP across borders and to resolve disputes, and the provision of technical infrastructure to connect IP systems and share knowledge. Its PATENTSCOPE Search Service is a comprehensive searchable database of patents and patent applications.
When you are searching online databases, check the database coverage to see if patent information is includes.
This database is available via the Electronic Library. Run a search as normal and you will find Patents results at the top of your results list, as shown in the screenshot below.
These online directories enable you to search for Intellectual Property (IP) and patents offices worldwide:
Patent information centres (collectively known as PATLIB, short for PATent LIBrary) can be found throughout the EPO member states. They have qualified and experienced local staff who can offer practical assistance on different kinds of intellectual property rights.