Patent Literature Searching

The patent literature is, generally, the primary searched form of prior art. Patent literature not only provide technical information (which may not be published in scientific literature), but it can be used to find information about the competitors and other important players in a specific field.

The number and importance of patents and patent applications (patent documents thereafter) are increasing at a rapid rate, worldwide. Further, patent documents also have increasing technical and strategic importance. Approximately 25% of all scientific or technical publications produced each year originate in patent offices around the world, most of which can be searched as any other kind of literature in databases.

Some advanced patent databases contain millions of records. Due to the size and flexibility of databases available, patent literature can provide opportunities for alternative research and references that you may have not considered previously. Some industry specific databases, like Google Scholar, provides results with both patent and non-patent literature so that you can process two kinds of literature with one search.

Searching the patent literature can be beneficial for many reasons:

  • identifying patents owned and licensed by firms;
  • discovering research ideas and solving problems;
  • discovering new market players;
  • monitoring the activities of competitors;
  • avoiding potential infringement issues;
  • avoiding wasted legal costs in pursuing patents for “old” technology;
  • predicting hot-areas of research that can impact on current products and those that are in the development stage;
  • confirming if a research activity would provide patentable subject matter in order to avoid re-inventing the wheel and spending money on it;

Patent literature may be searched and downloaded, mostly for free, from publicly accessible patent databases. A few examples are:

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