Patents are a grant from a government extending certain rights to an inventor in exchange for the inventor making a public disclosoure of his/her invention. In the U.S., a patent grants the inventor the right to exclude others in the making, using or selling of the invention for 20 years from date of filing. The U.S. grants patents in 3 major areas:
Much of the information in patents (~70-80%) never shows up in any other place.
A patent consists of 4 parts:
There are many databases that cover patents, however, the primary free-web patent databases are:
Patents are a mix of technology and the law; the terminology used in these documents is unique and not user-friendly. Add in the tendency for generic titles (ex. "Composition of Matter and Process of Making Same") as well as inconsistent description and the result is that keyword searching is very ineffective. Professional patent searchers get around the terminology problem by searching by patent classification either in addition to, or instead of, keyword searching. Chemical compounds need to be searched by structure, which can be done within the SciFinder database.