Patent information guide

Consult this guide for background information on what patents are and how to find them.

SFU faculty, staff, and students who are interested in patenting an invention should contact the SFU Technology Licensing Office for professional advice and services.

 What is a patent?

A patent is an exclusive right granted to an inventor to prevent others from making, using, selling or importing an invention, for a limited amount of time. Rights granted by a patent office are specific to a country or geographical area. The invention can be a product (a towel), a composition (a chemical substance used in fabrics for a towel), an apparatus (a machine for making towels), a process (a method of making towels), or an improvement of any of these. 

Patent and Design Guide
Excellent introduction to the world of patents from Queen's University Library (Recommended).

Most patent offices provide access to patent documents via freely available databases. Patents contain descriptive and useful technical information (including drawings or diagrams) that may not be found elsewhere. They also cite references that can serve as additional sources of information. Patents assist in both design and academic research. There are a number of ways to locate patents and their related documents.

Locate patents

The easiest way to locate a patent is with its application, publication, or patent number:

  • Sometimes, patent numbers can be found on products, packaging, or within documentation
  • Sometimes the same invention is patented in a number of different countries, each of which will have their own patent number. 

Search patents

You can search by inventor or company:

  • But company names can change, and patents can be assigned to divisions or subsidiaries
  • Patents can also be licensed to other companies
  • You may need to search many different former and current company names to locate all related patents

Most patented products are known by a brand name or trademark. However, patent applications are generally filed before the name of the product is determined. A patent could be used in multiple products with different names. The patent document’s title could have little or no relation to the product’s name.

 Search for patents

Key resources

Canadian Intellectual Property Office Guide to Patents 
Find the full text of Canadian patents and information about how to apply to get exclusive rights for an invention in Canada. 

The largest public patent database, Espacenet includes the full text of patents from more than 80 national and regional patent offices around the world. Developed by the European Patent Office.

United States Patent and Trademark Office 
Find the full text of US patents and patent applications.

Additional resources

Use Lens' extensive search function and filters to find patents 90+ national and regional patent offices. Includes full-text EP, US and WO patents.

Google Patents
An easily searchable patent database of over 120 million patent publications from 100+ patent offices around the world.

Find chemical-related patents and patent applications. Restricted to current SFU students, faculty and staff with a valid SFU ID and password. 

International Patent Classification (IPC)
A hierarchical system used to classify patents. IPC codes are searchable in most patent databases and are useful when you are searching for specific technologies.

 Filing for a patent

SFU Technology Licensing Office 
Support for SFU researchers seeking patents.

College of Patent Agents and Trademark Agents
List of Canadian patent agents who can help you file for a patent.

U.S. Patent Attorneys and Agents
Directory of patent attorneys and agents registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office.

 Selected books & resources


Canada's Intellectual Property Law in a Nutshell (2010) [print]
An introduction to Canadian IP law.

Canadian Intellectual Property Law and Strategy: Trademarks, Copyright, and Industrial Designs (2010) [print]
A comprehensive look at IP law in Canada and commentary on building an IP strategy.

Patent law essentials: a concise guide (2004) [online] 
A clearly-written essential reference book for students, lawyers, engineers, and entrepreneurs, focused on US patent law.

A guide for implementing a patent strategy: how inventors, engineers, scientists, entrepreneurships, and independent innovators can protect their intellectual property (2018) [online]
A how-to guide for inventors building a strategic patent portfolio.

Patents for chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and biotechnology : fundamentals of global law, practice, and strategy (2016) [online] 
Covers the legal and procedural complexities of the British, European, Japanese and US patent systems with a focus on the chemical and life sciences.

From Invention to Patent: A Scientist and Engineer's Guide (2018) [online] 
How to be an inventor, from innovation to patent protection, from a scientist's point of view. Includes both US and European patents.

The entrepreneur's guide to patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets & licensing (2004) [print] 
A guide to a wide variety of intellectual property protections available in the US.

Additional resources

General Information Concerning Patents 
An introduction to the US patent system and application process published by the USPTO.

Introduction to Intellectual Property (2021) 
An open textbook providing an introduction to intellectual property, including patents, copyright, trademarks, and trade secrets.

Inventing the Future - An Introduction to Patents for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (2006)
The World Intellectual Property Organization's guide to patents for smaller companies.

What every chemist should know about patents (2019)
American Chemical Society guide to patents and patenting for Chemists. 

 Need help?

If you have any further questions about patents, please contact Jenna Thomson, Liaison Librarian for Chemistry, Earth Science, Mathematics, Physics, and Statistics & Actuarial Science.