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.
In effect, filing for a patent is the purchase of a limited property right offered by the government 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. But most importantly it gives a patent owner the ability to share innovations whilst legally protecting themselves from copycats and 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;
- discuss the invention with others in order to set up a business based around the invention.
(source: Intellectual Property Office).
For further information about what patents are and how you can apply for them visit the Intellectual Property Office or alternatively check out The European Patent Office.
To find patents there are a variety of Internet resources available and on Google there is a searchable database, specifically covering US patents issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The two main sites I’d recommend to find UK/European patents are:
Both offer free pdf downloads and occasionally translations are included for non-English language versions.
For further information, check out the Supporting research page on the Library website