Adrian Janes Selected Sources for Patent Research
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By Adrian Janes


DocuTicker editors contribute brief articles to FUMSI on conducting research with grey literature - reports from government agencies, think tanks, research institutes and public interest organisations.


In my work as a contributing editor for DocuTicker, I research publicly available reports on a number of global topics. Here are some of my favourite resources for Patent Research:

Patents are both indicators of inventiveness and, to some degree, pointers towards the future. Though many will never be physically realised, those that are can become the kind of product which for many people are unimaginable to live without. The iPhone is a prominent recent example, and the lawsuits that have ensued are indicative of what can be at stake when inventiveness meets commercial success, and those who feel they have contributed to that success believe they are not receiving their due. In a globalised market, the stakes for not protecting one's work are higher than ever.

For an overview of the whole process of patent research and the functions of patents, the database company Dialog have produced an instructive 4-part course, "Developing Patent Research Expertise", available as separate PDFs:

Although these publications are slanted towards the use of Dialog databases and the mechanics of the US patent system, nonetheless they all contain a good deal of information of general application, especially in their introductory sections.

The British Library's Business and IP Centre can be useful both to would-be inventors and patent researchers. Its section Protecting Your Ideas offers PDF guides to the whole process of patenting, notably the ‘Inventing' guide (PDF), along with e-courses and a Business Essentials wiki.

Patent registration ascends through a national and international hierarchy. In the case of a UK inventor, this is from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), through the European Patent Organisation (EPO) up to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

Each of these have their search facilities relative to their respective areas, thus:

WIPO This last searches International Patent Applications, a form of patent based on the Patent Cooperation Treaty which is valid in multiple countries rather than being specific to one.

It is revealing that, with both IPO and EPO, there are several links that lead on to international information, again emphasising how inventors are encouraged to both acknowledge and to look beyond national boundaries. So, for example, EPO provides a Europewide directory of PATLIB centres, i.e. national patent offices and regional information centres. This is complemented by its chief search facility esp@cenet, which allows searches by country or internationally. At the bottom of the esp@cenet page there is also access to the following databases:

In the case of WIPO, besides the International Patent Applications search already mentioned, its Patentscope additionally includes documents from the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) and a range of individual countries , e.g. Cuba, Israel, Mexico.

Monitoring patent applications and developments can be a way of keeping tabs on competitors as much as being a window onto the future. Either way, awareness of the latest news is important, and all three agencies offer relevant publications. The IPO produces Patents Journal, while the EPO publishes European Patent Bulletin, and WIPO its PCT Newsletter. All the sites provide shorter news articles as well.

They are complemented by CNET, a regularly updated technology site which, by searching via its News tab for patent-related stories, will yield many up to date articles.

This piece has a largely Western perspective, but it would be remiss not to also mention the search facilities of the Japan Patent Office (JPO). According to the European Patent Office, ‘More than half the patent applications filed worldwide every year are written in Japanese, Chinese or Korean.‘ Besides providing awareness of developments in Japan, the links from the JPO's Industrial Property Digital Library are very helpful, putting in one place links to the patent offices of countries like China and Korea as well as such organisations as WIPO and EPO.

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