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M E 415: Mechanical Systems Design

Guide to using library resources for students in ME 415.

How to find patents

Because patent documents contain highly technical and oftentimes obfuscating language, it can be difficult to locate relevant patents especially if you do not know the patent number or inventor's / assignee's name. Keyword searching alone will only get you a small part of the full scope of patent documents related to a particular topic. Happily, modern search tools are making it possible to search for patents much more easily.

Basic search strategies

Keyword searching

Keyword searching is probably the most familiar search strategy, since this is typically what we use when searching for other types of documents. Finds patent documents containing the word(s) you entered, and sometimes common variations on those words.

Assignee or inventor searching

This involves searching for the person who invented the item being patented, or who has been assigned the patent rights. The assignee can be a company, not just a person. The inventor can waive their right to be named in the patent document, so this is not a foolproof method even if you know the inventor's name.

Classification searching

Precision searching using a patent classification system, typically Cooperative Patent Classification scheme (CPC). These systems organize patents hierarchically based on what they are about or for. If you know the classification for the type of item you're interested in, you can quickly locate all patents for that type of item regardless of language used.

Search tools

For more help with patent searching

Contact your librarian for more help with patent searching. A librarian can help you develop search strategies, navigate a CPC search, and more.

If you are considering patenting an invention and require an absolutely thorough search for existing patents, your best bet would be to get in touch with a patent attorney.

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