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An introduction to patents and where to search for them.
Last Updated: Nov 15, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates
Patents Print Page

What is a patent?

A patent is a form of intellectual property and can be a useful source of technical and scientific information. 


Why are patents useful?

You might search the patent literature for the following reasons:

  • Technical information: Patents are a source of technical information, which is often unavailable in journal articles and conference papers.

  • Freedom to operate or infringement: Before a company starts using a new process, it should be ascertained whether it infringes an existing patent.

  • Competitive intelligence: For example, by evaluating a company's patent activity over several years, it may be possible to identify a change in their research direction.

Books on Patents in Birkbeck Library

Cover Art
Negotiating Health - Pedro Roffe (Editor); Geoff Tansey (Editor); David Vivas-Eugui (Editor)
Call Number: 362.1 NEG
ISBN: 9781844072941
Publication Date: 2005-12-01

Cover Art
Owning the Genome - David B. Resnik
Call Number: 346.730486 RES
ISBN: 9780791459324
Publication Date: 2004-03-29

Cover Art
Biotechnology, Patents, and Morality - Sigrid Sterckx
Call Number: 174.957 BIO
ISBN: 0754611442
Publication Date: 2000-12-01


Where to search for patents

  • United States Patent and Trademark Office
    The database includes information about all US patents from the first patent issued in 1790 up to the present day.

  • Google Patents
    Google Patents covers issued patents and millions of patent applications made available by the USPTO, from the 1790s to the present. It don’t currently include international patents.

  • Scopus
    Scopus is the largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature: scientific journals, books and conference proceedings with patents, where available, showing in the search results. You need your Birkbeck username and password to access Scopus.

  • World Intellectual Patent Office
    Under PatentScope, contains 1 million world patents and patent applications; will have a WO prefix. When viewing patent, click on "Document" to download in PDF, ZIP, or XML. 


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