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Mechanical Engineering Research Guide

Guide for research in mechanical engineering.

Why Patents and Standards?

Patents

The vast majority of patent information is never disclosed or published elsewhere. Patents contain a wealth of specific technical detail, research data, and drawings. Patents and patent applications often contain information on new advances long before that information is published in a journal article.

If you are a researcher, particularly in the applied sciences, being aware of the relevant patent literature can help you evaluate your findings even if you do not intend to file a patent yourself. Patents can be a link between academic research and industry research, which often does not get published in journals the way academic research results do.

If you are an inventor, you should be aware of relevant prior art relating to your technology.

If you are an entrepreneur, you should monitor your competitors' new products, and where they are patented.


Standards

Standards are, essentially, agreed-upon ways of doing things. They specify how an item should be made by providing exact measurements and specifications about the materials. Being aware of these specifications can inform research and production decisions and reduce the chance of a failed design or final product.

How to find patents

Many researchers mistakenly think that all searching can be done electronically – and this is essentially true for U.S. patents granted since 1976. Patent searchers, especially inventors who need to thoroughly search the entire realm of patents to ensure their idea hasn’t already been patented, have more limited options available electronically. Older patents do not have as many online search options because the patent pages were put into the USPTO database as scanned images.

If you know the patent number:
The patent number is the magic key to the patent information system. Because patent numbers are often found on manufactured objects, collectors often use patent numbers to find information relating to a particular antique object. Regardless of what date the patent was issued, if you know the patent number, you can quickly pull up the full-text patent by searching Google Patent Search, the US Patent & Trademark Office site, or the pat2pdf website. Almost all free sites will allow you to enter a U.S. patent number and retrieve a PDF version of the patent.

If you do not have a U.S. patent number and want to search through the patents by topic or inventor, options vary depending on how far back you want to search:

For patents issued after 1975, go to either the Google Patent or Espacenet website to search and obtain the full text of the patent(s) regardless of whether you want to do a subject or assignee search.

For patents issued in 1975 or before, search options are more complicated. U.S. patents issued from 1790 through 1975 are only searchable from the USPTO website by Issue Date, Patent Number, and Current US Classification. Google Patent Advanced Search screen will allow you to search by patent number, inventor, assignee, topic,classification number, and date. Once you have a search result, you can also refine it using "Search Tools" to limit search by issue date, publication date,patent office, filing status, and patent type.

If you know the patentee or assignee:
Search either Google Patent or Espacenet by keyword. Google Patent will allow you to specify the "field" you want it to search in but only if you use the Advanced Search screen.

If you know the subject of invention:
If you do not have a specific patent in mind and just want to search for U.S. patents by subject there are several different options:

  1. Search the Google Patent or Espacenet site by keyword
  2. Search the USPTO resources using The 7-Step U. S. Patent Search Strategy or
  3. Search a research database for a specific discipline and restrict the search results to just patents (e.g., SciFinder for chemical patents, or PubMed for medical patents.)

For more details and information about finding patents from outside the U.S., visit the Patents guide. All information on this page has been adapted from the Patents guide.

How to find standards

Most of the ISU Library-owned standards are located in the Standards Center, Room 161, Parks Library. If you need assistance locating standards, or the Standards Center, please ask at the Research Help Desk or contact your librarian.

The citation to a standard typically has at least two parts, a number and a title. It may include more information, such as a date of revision or the number of pages. The alphabetic section of the standard number is often an acronym for the issuing body, or a combination of acronyms representing multiple issuing bodies. For example, the following standard was issued by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) in 1990: ASTM F1299-90, "Standard Specification for Food Service Equipment Hoods for Cooking Appliances."

Using Quick Search to find standards:

If you only know the number of a standard:

Use Quick Search to search for the number. You should filter ("Tweak my results") to just ISU Collections (Books & more) on your search results page. If this does not find the standard you need, check IHS Global to make sure you have the right number and to obtain the title.

If you only know the title of a specific standard:

Use Quick Search to search for the title. If this returns too many results, use Advanced Search and set the drop-downs to "Title" and "starts with"). You can also set the Material Type to Books & more (ISU Collections) to preemptively limit just to our collections.

Interpreting Quick Search records for standards:

Versions: Often, our collection includes more than one version of a standard. You may see a message that a number of versions exist -- this is usually a result of standards being revised over time. Click on this combined record and you'll see all the versions in our collection. From there, choose the version you want.

Location: To find where a standard is located in the Library, look for text that says "Available at Parks Library." The next few words will describe where the item is. For most standards, this will be REFERENCE Standards Center (Rm 161).

Note: Almost all of our standards currently display a message stating, "Your search did not match any physical resource in the library." This is not true. If there's a call number, the standard is in the location listed previously (usually Standards Center). This is due to a quirk of the platform underlying Quick Search and the way standards are cataloged.

Call number: The code that follows the location is the call number for the standard. Often, this is the standard number. (Be aware: if you've used a citation to identify the needed standard, the call number may vary from the number cited.) You will need to know this number in order to find the standard.

What do I do when I get to the Standards Center? The majority of the standards are housed in filing cabinets that line the room. They are arranged alphabetically by the acronym for the issuing organization and then by number. For example, ANSI C82.3 would come before ANSI/AASHTO/AWS D1.5M/D1.5:2010, which would come before ANSI/ISO/ASQC 9000-2. If you have identified a standard and found it in Quick Search, but can't find it in the library, ask at the Research Help Desk or contact your librarian.

If you need to find a standard on a topic:

Search in IHS Global, looking for a standard title that corresponds to the specific topic of interest. You may have to start your search under a broader subject category or try keyword variations.

Once you have located the title and number of the standards you need, then search for them in Quick Search to see if they are available at the library.

If you are looking for an ASTM or IEEE standard:

Full text of these standards is available online.


For more information, visit the Standards & Specifications guide.

Erin Thomas's picture
Erin Thomas
Contact:
150 Parks Library
Iowa State University
515 294-9886

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