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Research Guide: Intellectual Property Law: Patents

Patently-O Blog


IP Watchdog


General Information

United States Patent and Trademark Office

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the single best online resource for patent information.  This site covers everything you would ever need to know about the subject.  Using this site, you can find out what a patent is, how to find a patent using the database, and how to obtain your own patent.  Start your learning here!

Patents (via Cornell Law School)

The Cornell Law School, in partnership with the Legal Information Institute (LII), developed Wex, a publicly available legal encyclopedia and dictionary.  Wex presents an in-depth overview of patent law; including information about the history of patents and the legislation that enables the governments to grant this intangible property right.Wex also provides links to the U.S. Code and important patent caselaw decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Online Tutorials

Patent Search Tutorial (via The University of Texas)

This online tutorial takes the user on a step-by-step guide to the USPTO patent database, and not just the mechanics of the database.  The tutorial discusses search strategy as well as utilizing the index and patent classification codes in order to conduct a more thorough search. 

Patent Search Tutorial (via Penn State)

This online tutorial is similar to the tutorial above , but provides less hands-on guidance to the USPTO and more general information about patent searching using databases besides the USPTO.Use in tandem with the University of Texas site to provide a well-rounded introduction to the subject of patent searching.

Patent Searching

Patent Full-Text and Full-Image Database (via USPTO)


The USPTO provides a free database to search for patent applications and patents granted in the United States.  The database is updated every Tuesday and contains all patents issued U.S. from the very first one, issued in 1790.   Unfortunately, the database can only be searched for the text of the patent after 1976.  Using the search engine is not difficult, but it would benefit beginners to have a look at the glossary before they begin searching in order to understand the significance of some of the search fields.  While downloading a copy of the patent from this database is free, it is also tedious as the USPTO requires a special (albeit free) plug-in to view the pages.  In addition, patent images must be downloaded one page at a time, and only in .tiff or .bmp form. 


Google Patent Search


Launched in late-2006, Google provided us with another way to search for patents.While all patents featured through the Google Patents page are directly from the USPTO, Google’s database is much more aesthetically pleasing and easier to use.   Unlike the USPTO, Google can do full-text searching for all patents, including those issued before 1976.  The entire patent can be downloaded easily in .pdf form and in one click of a button.


Free Patents Online


Free Patents Online (FPO) is another choice in patent database searching.  Unlike Google Patents and the USPTO, FPO allows you to search not only United States patents, but also European patents at the same time.  FPO also has a very cool button you can add to your Google toolbar; you can highlight text on any web page and then click the FPO icon on the toolbar and it will instantly search the FPO patent database for the highlighted terms.  You can search some of the content without a username and password, but to access everything you are required to register.  While registration is free, its also serves as a barrier.


Statutes and Regulations


U.S. Code Title 35 - Patents

The United States Government Printing Office (GPO) provides access to all United States Laws on this website.  Title 35 of the U.S. Code is where all the legislation involving patents can be found.  The link above provides access to a browsable form of the code.  Unfortunately the GPO does not provide a user-friendly search engine. 

U.S. Code Title 35 - Patents (via Cornell Law School)

The Cornell Law School provides a great tool to search individual titles of the U.S. Code


Code of Federal Regulations 

CFR Title 37 - Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights



Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP)

The Manual of Patent Examination Procedure (MPEP) is published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office as a manual for patent agents, attorneys and examiners.It contains all of the laws and regulations that must be followed during the examination of a U.S. patent application.  The MPEP also has excellent information for the public, such as how to present a persuasive argument to a patent examiner as to why their patent should be granted.The MPEP is not easily searchable, but its possible to view the individual sections in .html and search using the find function of the browser.


USPTO Glossary

The USPTO provides this glossary as a reference supplement to its main Patent and Trademark page.  It is a fairly comprehensive collection of Patent and Trademark terms, but regrettably it is not searchable. 

Brown & Michaels- A Patent Glossary

This site is maintained by Brown & Michaels, a New York based intellectual property law firm.  While not as extensive as the USPTO site, the terms are defined in everyday English and it is easier for the non-legalese speaker to understand. 

Reference Librarian

Reference Librarian

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