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How Do I Find Patents?

This guide provides information about patents and help for finding the resources you need.

Library Assistant

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Tim Wray
H.G. Thode Library of Science & Engineering
McMaster University
1280 Main St. West
Hamilton, ON
L8S 4L8
905-525-9140 ext. 22000

What are Patents?

A patent is a legal agreement between a government and an inventor which gives the inventor the right to stop others from making, using or selling that invention in the country or region for a limited time.

Patents cover new inventions, such as a process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement of an existing invention. Patents must show:

  • Novelty - the first in the world
  • Utility - solves a problem
  • Ingenuity - not obvious to someone skilled in that area

The web is the best place to search for patents. If the full-text patent is not available, you can request it through Interlibrary Loan.

Why Search for Patents?

Patents are a source of technical information that are vital for businesses, researchers, and academics. Reasons to search for patents include:

  • Gain access to a wealth of technical information not published anywhere else
  • Learn how something works (diagrams, detailed description)
  • Avoid duplication of research efforts
  • Identify new research trends and/or licensing opportunities
  • Find information on a company's activities, or identify experts in a field
  • Gain protection for an idea or invention.
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