TITLE: USPTO Web Patent Databases

ACCESS: http://uspto.gov/patft/index.html

Thomas Edison, America's Father of Invention, could have used the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Web Patent Databases in formulating the ideas for one his 1,093 patents. The USPTO now offers free Web access to full-text and bibliographic patent databases for all searchers and inventors.

In 1997 alone, there were 237,045 Edison wannabes who applied for patents. This included many professors and academics who wanted to patent their "new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof." The U.S. Patent Databases are useful in determining whether something has already been invented and if one's idea is worth pursuing. It is also useful in exploring information contained in patents relating to one's field of endeavor.

There are two sections of the U.S. Patent Database, although they cover the same patent information with comparable search options. The Bibliographic Database at offers a rapid search of patent front pages including all bibliographic data as well as an abstract and brief description of the patent's contents.

The Full-Text Database section at offers a more thorough search of the full text of US patents with all of the text words in the patent being searchable. It includes all bibliographic data as well such as the inventor's name, the patent's title, the assignee's name, abstract, the full description of the invention, and the claims. This database also offers some full text images, although I did not find any patents with images available.

The databases are easy to use with plenty of background information and FAQs for people that are new to the patenting process. It is the perfect place for preliminary searches for inventors. However, the site does link to patent lawyers and patent depository libraries for more in depth assistance and legal information.

Gentry Holbert
Education Coordinator
University of South Alabama Biomedical Library

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