Grainger Engineering Library Information Center
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Finding Patent Information at the University of Illinois
Patent searching requires patience and time. The resources required to do a patent search on the UIUC campus are available at the
Grainger Engineering Library Information Center.
If you desire or need assistance in performing a patent search, please contact the Grainger Engineering Library Reference
staff at: 244-7826.
Table of Contents:
Intellectual Property Protections:
- Copyright: Protects an artistic expression, including, written works, jewelry designs, music recordings,
sculptures ect. It does not protect the idea, only the way such an idea is expressed.
- Patent: Protects a machine, process, manufacture or composition of matter. Something that has a function.
- Utility Patent: This covers inventions that fit into the categories: chemical, mechanical and electrical.
Utility patents are granted for a period of 20 years from the date of filing, but can expire earlier for the failure to pay the
required maintenance fees.
- Design Patent: Issued for any new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. The patent
protects on the appearance of an article, and not its structure or utilitarian features. Design patents are granted for a
period of 14 years.
- Plant Patent: Issued to anyone who has invented or discovered and asexually reproduced any distinct and new
variety of plant. These patents usually have color plates since many of the patentable parts are colors of the plant.
Plant patents are granted for a period of 17 years.
- Trademark: Protects a word, words, graphical symbol or device that is used in trade to indicate the origin of
goods or to distinguish goods from the goods of others. Trademarks are only granted for goods in interstate commerce.
Trademarks must first be used on a sale of a good before it is eligible for registration.
Requirements for Patenting an Invention:
- It must be the first of its kind.
- It must be useful.
- It must not be obvious to others of ordinary skill in the field to which the patent pertains.
Terminology for Ownership of Patents:
- Assignee: The individual or entity to whom ownership of the patent is assigned by the assignor. Corporate
names are entered as they appear on the assignment deed.
- Assignor: The individual or entity who owns the patent and who is making the assignment to the benefit of the
- The Chicago Public Library has some foreign patents (German, 1912-1938;
Canada's Official Journal, old law British patents, and new law British Patents, 2,000,001 - present). For more information
on their holdings, you can call their patent and trademark department directly at 312-747-4450.
Patent Search Steps for Prior Art
Prior Art Search: This is to verify that an invention is not already patented. There is no penalty for submitting
an application to the PTO for a device that is already patented, but it is a waste of time and money if the PTO finds the patent
already exists for the invention you are submitting.
- Step One: Identify the invention's main components and applications. What devices is it made
of? What is it used for? Function? Effect? End-product? Structure?. You will also want to think of as many synonyms and
related terms for those words as possible.
Examples: Bicycles: wheels, brakes, pedals, transportation, etc.
- Step Two: The Index to Patent Classification
In the Grainger Library Patent area you will find the tools necessary for steps two through six of the patent search
Using the Index to Patent Classification, locate the patent subject areas called classifications. Use the terms identified
in step one and search the keyword index to find the proper classification.
Beneath each keyword is an indented list with a more specific description of that keyword. To the right of each of those
words are two columns of numbers. The first number is the main patent classification and the second number is the
subclassification. If you do not find the right terms, use the see references to look in related categories.
Inventions are classed in several different areas that relate to individual components of the invention and all possible
classifications must be located before moving to step three.
- Step Three: The Manual of Classification
Even though the searcher finds classes and subclasses in the Index, the Manual of Classification is a necessary step to
avoid wasting time searching unrelated groups of patents. It provides verification of relevant classes and subclasses.
The Manual lists things with regards to definitions, the Index does not.
You will now use the Manual of Classification (the multiple volume set of three ring binders). The searcher
should have several patent classifications and subclassifications to search under. Even if the searcher thinks that there
is only one single correct class, all related classes and subclasses should also be searched.
In the Manual, each classification has its own pages with its subclasses listed below. The subclasses are in
technology order (not alphabetical or numerical). The Manual shows the relation for the invention to other inventions
within the same technology.
- Step Four (sometimes not necessary): Classification Definitions
Using Classification Definitions, the searcher can gain additional information to verify that the classifications about to
be searched are accurate. Classification Definitions serves as a dictionary of the class and subclass groups. The
Classification Definitions are on microfiche.
*Once the searcher has completed steps one through four, s/he has already finished the most difficult part of the search.
The searcher has located the proper classification in which to locate a particular patent.
- Step Five: Now the user can find out if they are on the right path by using the CASSIS Bib
file. Use the class numbers to retrieve and browse through titles of patents issued in a given class and subclass. You
can also redirect your search by retrieving lists of patents containing applicable keywords. Note their class and subclass
numbers and go back to step 3.
- Step Six: Now the user should have a list of relevant subclasses. Obtain a list of patent
numbers granted for every class and subclass to be searched. The user can obtain this list from the CASSIS Bib file and
print it out to the attached printer.
- Step Seven: Using the official Gazette (Located in the lower level of Grainger), look up
summaries of all the patents on your list to eliminate patents unrelated to the invention. The Official
Gazette contains a brief abstract and many times a reduced patent diagram. On the spine of the Gazette are the patent
number ranges contained in that issue.
- Step Eight: For patents issued since mid-1996, the Grainger Library has full-text CD-ROMS of
all patents. You must have the patent number to use the USAPat system. Patents issued prior to 1996 are requested through
Inter Library Loan. Please include both the patent number and title on all patent requests.
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