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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 or call (608) 262-0696

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?

In addition to protecting different types of intellectual property, patents, copyright, and trademarks are protected for different lengths of time and are registered with separate agencies (in the United States, copyrights are registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, patents and trademarks are registered with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office; trademarks can also be protected on the state level). 

Why search patents?

Searching patents during the design process can help you:

  • Determine if your 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  • Monitor emerging designs in a technology area that may not be published elsewhere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


  • Search full text of granted US patents from 1976 to the present​ (PatFT) or published US patent applications 2001 to the present (AppFT) using precise searching in up to 56 fields
  • Retrieve PDF patent images from granted US patents 1790-present using Patent Number Search
  • Look up CPC (Coordinated Patent Classification) or USPC (US Patent Classification) information in Classification number search

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 (up to 500 per search) in "My Patent List" or download to Excel spreadsheet

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

The Lens Patent Search 

  • Includes full text for US granted patents (from 1976-present) and applications (2001-present), EPO granted patents (1976-present), WIPO PCT applications (1976-present); also includes searchable data for over 81 million patents and applications worldwide from 1907-present
  • Many options for filtering search results and data visualization
  • Can export up to 1,000 search results to CSV, RIS, BibTeX, and JSON
  • Includes cited scholarly works via PubMed, CrossRef, and Microsoft Academic
  • Free registration allows for saved searches, notes, and collections

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

Campus intellectual property information and resources from the UW-Madison Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education

UW-Madison Office of Business Engagement

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

Invention Disclosure

"University policy and federal statutes REQUIRE all UW–Madison faculty, staff and students to disclose to WARF, regardless of the monies that funded the research. All Morgridge Institute researchers also must disclose to WARF." - Patenting FAQ for UW Inventors

Submit an invention disclosure report