Patents Overview

Patents provide important technical literature. There are approximately 10 million patents in the U.S. The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the official site and answers many questions concerning the patent process. A patent for an invention grants a property right to the inventor, usually for 20 years. The USPTO isn't the best place for patent searching, though, instead search Google Patents or Patent Lens, and the sites listed further below. Both patent applications and granted patents are included.

This image shows the major parts of a patent. Purdue University points to several good tutorials on patent search strategies, including a discussion of patent classification systems. See also this guide's tab on patent classifications.

wire fabric patent by Charles Wickwire

The Best Patent Web Sites

Cornell Patent Office

More Patent Databases

Patent Searching Prior to 1976

Prior to 1976 patents searching is a bit complicated. While full-text should be available in Google Patents, some has been scanned with OCR - optical character recognition - and there are numerous spelling errors. The print indexes below may be helpful in these cases:

Engineering Librarian

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Jill Powell
103A Carpenter Hall
Engineering Library
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853
Subjects: Engineering