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Thursday, 5 May 2011

Patents Refresher

A patent is a set of exclusive rights granted by the state to protect the features, methods and processes of an invention for a fixed period of time. They relate to the intellectual property rights of an invention and thus provide the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling the content of the patent for a term of (usually) twenty years from the date the patent was filed.

Applying for a patent registers the property rights an inventor has over their invention. The government offers these in exchange for an agreement to share with the public the details of how inventions work, what they do, how they do it, what they are made of and how they are made. Yet most importantly they offer the patent owner a means to share innovations whilst legally protecting their ideas from copycats or imitators. Other benefits of patenting your invention include the rights to:

  • sell the invention and all the intellectual property (IP) rights;

  • license the invention to someone else but retain all the IP rights;

  • and discuss the invention with others in order to set up a business based around the invention.


For further information about what patents are and how you can apply for them visit the Intellectual Property Office.

There are a variety of Internet resources available to help you search for patents but the two main sites the University Library recommends for UK/European patents are Esp@cenet and Free Patents Online. Both offer free full-text PDF downloads and where applicable translations are included for non-English language content.

Other useful sites are listed below:

  • DEPATISnet - A patents search engine provided by the German Patent and Trade Mark Office. It can be used to search for full text patents around the world.

  • Google Patents – For US patents try searching Google Patents. It’s much easier to search than the official US patents site.

  • UK Patent Office - The official body for granting patents and the registration of designs and trade marks in the UK.

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