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Computer Sciences : Patents

General research help for CS.

Get Patent Help!

Patent and trademark services have moved from Wendt Library to Steenbock Library, Room 118. Steenbock Library is a USPTO Patent & Trademark Resource Center. Read about our Patents & Trademark services.

For questions or to set up an appointment, email

What Is a Patent?

A patent is a grant of property right by the government to an inventor preventing others from making, using, or selling a new and useful invention for a period of 20 years from application date.

Watch library videos on patents:

How are patents different from trademarks and copyrights?

Watch a video on IP basics from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office: Basic Facts: Trademarks, Patents and Copyrights

Why search patents?

Searching patents during design can help you:

  • Determine if your design idea is novel
  • Identify areas you may need to design around to avoid infringement
  • Find inventors (technical experts) with whom to collaborate
  • Find inventions that are free to use because of expired or unissued patents
  • Monitor emerging designs in a technology area that may not be published elsewhere
  • Identify key companies in a technology area who may be interested in your design.

Patent Search Strategies

This video explains patent search strategies using Google Patents and Espacenet.

Patent Databases

USPTO Patent Full Text Database


Espacenet Patent Search 

Espacenet - European Patent Office

  • Worldwide patent database with over 80 million patent documents from 92 countries
  • Patent documents in the language of the issuing country; >5 million have a searchable English abstract
  • Includes US patents and applications searchable by keyword in title and abstract
  • Patent images are in PDF
  • Save selected results in "My Patent List" or download to Excel spreadsheet
  • Step-by-step guide to using Espacenet

Google Patents

Google Patents

  • Keyword searching of all US patents from 1790 to present & US applications 2001 to present (update frequency unknown)
  • Adding International, European and other countries' patent documents
  • Filter search results by clicking on "Search Tools" button
  • Patent overview includes links to US & International Classification tools, links to other databases, and patent status information
  • Good place to start a preliminary patent search -  complete the search in a database like USPTO or Espacenet

Free Patents Online

FPO - Driving IP Forward

  • Access to all US patents and patent applications, plus other regions & countries (EPO, WIPO, Japan)
  • Free registration allows saved searches, alerts, RSS feeds, and exporting data to Excel

More on Patents

For more information on patents and patent searching, see the full patents research guide.

Patenting for UW Researchers and Students

Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF)

  • Serves the University of Wisconsin-Madison scientific community
  • Patents the discoveries of UW-Madison researchers
  • Licenses technologies to leading companies in Wisconsin, the United States and worldwide

WARF's Entrepreneurons video series

UW-Madison Graduate School policies - Intellectual Property

UW Office of Corporate Relations  "The front door to the University for business and industry"

(Video) Patents and Inventions: common questions asked by students when it comes to patents and inventions. Stephanie Whitehorse, WARF Manager of Intellectual Property Operations.