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Searching for and reading patent documents

Access to patent databases

Since patent documents are publicly available, many open access patent databases exist. KTH library also provides access to several databases with patent content with additional metadata/indexing. This extra information can often make it easier to find and analyze technical contents of patents. You can search for a database in Primo or by using our list of databases.

Note: If you want to apply for a patent, you should always be careful not to share information in public before you send in the application. So when searching on a non-secure connection/ open access databases make sure not to expose too much details of your own invention if you want to apply for a patent.

Search in patent databases

Patent documents are written in a formal legal language. Also, patent owners have no interest in letting competitors find out what they are working on. Therefore, a first key word search might give zero or very few hits.

This doesn't mean that the technology you look for isn't patented, just that you need to be prepared to spend a little more time on searching. There are a few tricks that makes it easier:

Take advantage of metadata/indexing in bibliographic databases

Bibliographic databases usually add data about the information organized in the database. This metadata/indexing can be of help when you search. Some patent databases like Derwent Innovations Index add technical data to title and abstracts, while virtually all patent databases take advantage of the patent classification systems.

Search with patent classification codes

When a patent examiner at a patent office examines a patent application, (s)he assigns classification codes to the applications to describe and classify the technology therein. There are several different patent classification systems, but they are all hierarchical systems and many are similar to the Cooperative Classification System described in this short video from EPO.

Pick up good search terms from interesting hits

If you find one relevant document you can look for more useful terms in that document. Don't forget to look at the patent classification codes, they are often a key to finding similar technology.

Reading a patent document

A patent document is usually divided into different sections. The front page display bibliographic information e.g. title, abstract, who the inventor is, who owns the invention and sometimes drawings. Drawings can be useful in providing technical details and are also found in a separate section later in the document.

Another section of a patent document is the claims. This section describes exactly what the applicant wants to legally protect in the application. The claims are therefore written in a very precise, formal legal language.

In the technical description, the embodiment of the invention is described in technical detail and is in general more accessible for people with an engineering background.

If you want to learn more - tutorials and guides

Many patent organizations have free online tutorials and guides for those who want to know more about the patenting process and other types of immaterial assets. Presented here is a selection of these. The IPR helpdesk  at the European Patent Office offers free-of-charge webinars and fact-sheets. EPO also provides an inventors' handbook  with a good section on patents, but also other useful tips.

The immaterial property laws and the patenting process differs between Europe and the US. If you are interested in filing a patent in the US, the United States Patents and Trademark Office have general info concerning patents in the US at their website .

Swedish patent law (in Swedish)

Patentlag (1967:837)

International treaties

European patent convention

Paris convention for the protection of industrial property (PCT)

TRIPS agreement

To find more national laws and international treaties in the area of intellectual property law you can use the WIPO Lex database

Finding court cases and decisions

The Swedish Court of Appeals

The EU Court of Justice database Curia

Watch a short video to learn more

Vad är ett patent?-PRV skolan (in Swedish)

The international (PCT) patent application process