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Electrical Engineering & Computer Science: Patents

General guide to resources for electrical engineering and computer science.

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Patents & Trademarks


A patent is an intellectual property right granted by the Government of the United States of America to an inventor “to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States” for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted. 


In the U.S., patents and trademarks are issued by the USPTO.  U.S. patents are effective only within the U.S, U.S. territories, and U.S. possessions.  Each country has its own granting institution.  At the international level, the licensing process is facilitated by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a specialized agency of the United Nations.

How to search for patents

Why use both Google Patents and USPTO?

Google Patents offers a fast way to find patents. However, a more comprehensive search has to be executed in USPTO databases.

Google Patents
  • easy, fast, and familiar
  • fulltext search available starting with first US patents
  • searches US, EPO, and WIPO at the same time
  • scanning errors
  • not updated regurlarly
  • includes only the first version of a patent

  • the most complete collection of US patents
  • most up-to-date collection
  • include useful tools
  • not easy to use
  • fulltext search starts with 1976

More sources for learning how to search for patents

Patent vs Patent Application

There are many types of patents. To identify a patent type, one have to look at the patent number to find the kind codes. Kind codes include a letter and, in many cases, a number and are used to distinguish the kind of patent document and the level of publication. Kind codes are added at the end of a number.In order to see these codes, one have to open the pdf.

A patent application is a request pending to be granted or issued a patent. The content of patent application is different from the content of a patent. Starting with January 2, 2001, all patent applications numbers end in A1, A2, or A9.

Starting with the same date, a granted or issued patent number ends in B1 or B2

Check USPTO Kind Codes if the patent is dated before 2001 and to see all the other types of kind codes available: