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BIOL/CHEM 510: Foundations in Graduate Studies

Updated September 2021

What is a Patent?

patent is a legal document giving the patent owner certain exclusive rights to their invention for a limited time. Patents are a useful source of information on new technology, trends in technological development, processes, and specific products or innovations. Conducting a thorough patent search will inform you as to whether your invention already exists, if your patent will infringe on the rights of other patents, or if it will invalidate a competing patent. Patents may also not be reported in research journals, thus not show up during a search that only includes existing literature. Don't miss relevant data found in patents only that is not included in journal articles. Patents expire after 20 years.

If you don't find what you are looking for, please contact your Librarian or use our Chat with a Librarian service.

Patent Research

Finding patents in the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) Patent Database:

By Terms or Keywords

  1. Go to CPC Classification System Scheme and search for common terms or keywords.
  2. Use the Class/Subclass numbers you found to check the CPC Classification System Scheme to see if they are on target.
  3. Search by Class/Subclass numbers in USPTO Database.

By Patent Number

  1. Go to USPTO Database.
  2. Select Patent Number Search or Publication Number Search.

By Subject

  1. Go to USPTO Database and select Quick Search. Enter keywords in the search box.
  2. Find a patent that is close to what you're looking for.
  3. Note the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) number/Subclass for that patent, e.g. A01D 711/111 .
  4. Do a search of that Class/Subclass in USPTO Database to find more patents on that subject.

*View this tutorial from the US Patent and Trademark Office on the patent search process.

Other Resources:

Finding patents in the European Patent Office Online:

The European Patent Office (EPO) maintains a free database of worldwide patents (including U.S. patents) called Espacenet. Images of patents are provided in PDF format, but can only be printed one page at a time.

By Keyword or Classification

  1. Go to Espacenet and select Classification Search.
  2. Enter a keyword or select a Classification by "symbol" or "title and description".
  3. Patent classification is a system of sorting inventions and their documents into technical fields covering all areas of technology. This resource uses the International Patent Classification (IPC) and the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC). Searching by classification may produce more accurate results.

By Patent Number

  1. Go to Espacenet and enter the patent number (with or without the country code) in the Smart Search box.
  2. All documents with that number will be listed. 
  3. Choose the patent record you are looking for.

By Subject

  1. Go to Espacenet Advanced Search page and enter your keywords in the "Title or abstract" box.
  2. Find a patent that's close to what you're looking for.
  3. Note the International Classification number/Subclass for that patent, e.g. H04B1/59.
  4. Do a search of that Class/Subclass in the serch box at the Espacenet Classification Search page to find more patents on that subject.

*Espacenet Tutorial - How to search espacenet, the European Patent Office's online patent database

Other Resources:

Finding Chemical Patents in SciFinder Scholar?

Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) indexes chemical patents from approximately 25 countries and patent organizations. UCSD affiliates may search the online CAS database, Scifinder Scholar (link below). You have to register with SciFinder (create an account) before you can access this resource.

Once you have obtained access to SciFinder Scholar, go to Explore References.  To search by patent number, assignee name or inventor name, select  Patent and enter the information you have. To search by subject, select Research Topic and limit to document type Patent.

Watch these tutorial videos for additional support with finding patents.