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What are patents?
- Patents are documents that grant protection and rights to an inventor by a national government for a particular invention in exchange for a full public description of the invention and how it works.
- Patents are a form of intellectual property.
- Patent applications must be filed in every country in which protection is desired.
- Some vocabulary defined:
- Patent: legal protection for new inventions or improvements to existing inventions.
- Trademark: designs (i.e. words, sounds) used to differentiate one person or organization’s product or service from another.
- Copyright: the exclusive legal right to a reproduce an artistic, literary, dramatic, or musical work.
- Trade secret: secret information on a product to be sold (i.e. Coca-Cola recipe).
How do I find patents?
- To find patents, it is important to be specific in your search string. For example, you might use "water desalination," as opposed to simply “water.”
- If this example yields no results, consider using synonyms (i.e. "renewable energy", "sustainable energy").
- Don't restrict the search to titles. Sometimes patents have remarkably unhelpful titles (i.e. "An Apparatus").
- If the invention is available, it might be easier to check the product itself and its packaging for a patent number. Check the company websites for listed patents.
- Create a list of words that describe your idea: what material or method is used, what does the invention do, and what is special about the invention?
Why use patents?
- Find information on what has been invented before.
- Identify key inventors from a competitor's company.
- Identify companies in your research area that are potential buyers, competitors, or employers.
- Identify collaborators in your research area for joint research.
Where can I search for patents?
Top Picks: Global Patents
Top Picks: Canadian Patents
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