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A Word About Searching Patents

Searching the patent literature is a a crucial step for any inventor, but it is challenging. Using online guides and the assistance of a knowledgable patent searcher can be helpful. For the most fulsome search and/or legal counsel, please consult a patent agent or patent/intellectual property attorney to ensure you understand the innovation landscape and filing procedures.

What's a Patent

In an nutshell, it is an intellectual property right

  • Types of Patents:
    • Utility
      • This covers processes, machines, manufacturing, material composition, chemical compositions etc
    • Plant
      • For new and distinctive plants that can be asexually reproduced (via grafting or cutting)
      • Cannot be a tuber propagated plant, nor can the plant be found in an uncultivated state
    • Design
      • surface ornamentation
        • a design added to an object (must be inseparable)
      • Patent only protects object's appearance
  • An invention must be:
    • Novel
      • unknown by others (domestic)
      • described in a printed publication (international)
    • Useful
      • It must operate to perform a described and intended use; utility
    • Inventive
      • It must be distinct and different from anything used or described before
      • Cannot be obvious to someone who is skilled in the invention discipline

Google Patents

Options for searching:

  1. If you already know the patent number, copy and paste that into the search box
  2. Search using key terms
  3. Inventor or Assignee


Places to Find Patents

Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) - It is  the special operating agency of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada to deliver intellectual property services.

European Patent Office - It is the patent office for Europe (over 44 countries)

Google Patents - global repository of full text patents - Project by Cambia and Queensland University of Technology to improve the efficiency, ease and transparency of the innovation landscape

United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) - It is the federal granting agency for trademarks and patents

Guide to searching patents for other countries




Assignee: The individual or company that holds rights to the patent. 

Claim: a description of the function, process and method being protected under the patent. 

Expiration Date: Typically 20 years after filing date but may differ depending on jurisdiction and patent type

Prior Art: All relevant information that is related to a patent