Online intellectual property resources go significantly beyond statutes, court decisions and application forms. Searchable databases exist for all types of IP registrations (international as well as U.S. and state) and, in some instances, pending litigation.
As is always the case on the Web, the free databases -- and there are many -- don’t consistently offer the same level of completeness and reliability that come from a commercial search. Still, they do offer a quick, cheap, and convenient starting point. If nothing else, the free IP databases frequently deliver valuable preliminary information. If you need the specifics of a current registration or lawsuit, for example, an online database may reveal enough for you to decide whether to order an official copy of documents. For patent or trademark applications, one simple search request may well turn up a conflicting registration that would cause problems for a contemplated filing.
With those limitations in mind, here is a catalog of searchable IP databases maintained by government, academic and institutional sites, as well as commercial sites. The list now includes specialized U.S. and international patent databases, records from the European Patent Office and six countries and trademark registration databases from 20 states. If a state is not in the catalog, it is because multiple search attempts, from a variety of approaches, did not turn up evidence of a trademark database. This update adds commercial services and corrects misstatements in the description of GetThePatent.com. I welcome notice of any omissions or newly added databases at email@example.com.
The Copyright Office now offers four online routes to its records since 1978. One is the longstanding method, the Library of Congress Information System (LOCIS), which requires a Telnet application and the willingness to wade through successively deeper menus in search of information. (It's advisable to print out the user's guide beforehand.) The newer alternatives each offer direct access to one of the three databases within LOCIS, only with the benefit of a targeted search engine. These specialized databases separate records according to the type of filing. One database contains serials, one is for most every other type of application and renewal, and the third is limited to name changes, transfers and other ownership documents.
LOCIS and its spin-offs epitomize the shortcomings of free online databases, because they are simply not complete. I have a stack of registrations that have never turned up in LOCIS, in any of my visits over the past six years. Most recently I have come across disparities between two databases within LOCIS and their experimental alternative counterparts. Some of the registrations and assignments that do appear in LOCIS are not showing up in the new databases, despite identical search terms and parameters.
None of the copyright databases are LOCIS available from 5 PM Eastern time Saturdays until noon on Sunday.
The PTO offers free access to two searchable patent databases. The patent grants database contains full-page images of U.S. patents issued since 1790 (that’s not a misprint; a recent update pushed the database back almost 200 years.) It also includes the full text of patents issued since 1976. (There are some omissions; check the Contents page for lists of missing patents, which are organized by type. The second database contains the full text and full-pages images of patent applications published since March 15, 2001. Again, there are omissions; to find the numeric list, take the link to information about the full-text database, then scroll to the bottom of the page for a link to the list of full-page omissions. The bibliographic database, which had front page information for full-text patents, was discontinued at the end of 2000. For either active database, check the Load Status link to verify the most recent updating.
The search pages for either database disclose the date through which the the data is current. The basic search engine for either database supports Boolean operators, looks for two key terms in specified fields, and allows limiting searches to the year of issue. The advanced search will analyze a complicated search request, using much the same format as Westlaw or Lexis. (Help is there for the clicking.) You can also search by patent or application number. The site has a shopping cart for ordering copies of documents by fax or Internet delivery.
The National Agricultural Library (NAL) has a keyword searchable database of its biotechnology patent materials. It's part of a Biotechnology Information Resource that is no longer being updated and that will be replaced in April by an agency library collaboration at http://www.agnic.org/.
This site has two databases of patents and patent applications owned by the Department of Energy or its contractors or assignees. The cumulative database, which is updated every six months, has bibliographic citations of patents that were developed at DOE labs or by contract researchers since 1978. It includes patent applications processed for the Energy Science and Technology Database (EDB) after January 1993. The Current Release Database contains only the latest EDB patents and patent applications, some of which are available in full text.
Although this resource is not, strictly speaking, within the scope of this RoundUp, its database may nonetheless be useful to intellectual property researchers. The Institute defines its interest as the "folklore" of the computing industry. As a result, the searchable database contains descriptions of software technology that have been excerpted from computer manuals, textbooks, journals, conference proceedings, computer science theses, technical reports, and other documents that are generally not available elsewhere online. The sources date from the mid-1950s on.
Bookmark this page as a one-stop springboard to the searchable patent databases at Delphion, the USPTO, and the European Patent Office, as well as two commercial sites.
The legal translation firm InterLingua.com, Inc. maintains a free, searchable
database of patent, trademark, and copyright infringement cases.. Complete
docket reports are available for $25.
This organization allows free full-text searching of agricultural biotechnology patents and applications from the European Patent Office, the World Intellectual Property Office, and the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (1996-2000). It plans to expand coverage to the U.S. Pending Infringement Litigation
This database contains more than 75 years worth of Canadian patent descriptions and images. It is a fruitful starting place for a spectrum of international databases as well. The Search Foreign Patents option gives access to a variety of Patent Cooperation Treaty, Hague Express, Madrid Express, and JOPAL Express databases as well as the USPTO, European Patent Office, National Institute of Industrial Property, the Japanese Patent Office, and more than a dozen other countries.
Two mainframe databases provide bibliographic text information about patent registrations and applications. PatAdmin covers filings since January 1979, while PatIndex uses International Patent Classification marks for searching. It's also possible to search patent specifications, which are weekly publications of patent applications prior to acceptance, applications that have been accepted, and applications that were amended after acceptance and therefore require republication.
Three databases of patent specifications are now online. They are divided
into applications that have not yet been accepted, ones that have been
accepted, and ones that were amended and republished after acceptance.
Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) Patents Index
The Chinese Taipei Intellectual Office offers a searchable English-language bibliographic database of published invention and utility patents listed on the Official Gazette of the Chinese Taipei Intellectual Property Office since 1998. The search engine has multitudinous options, such as keyword, publication or filing date, certificate, patent or application number, and author, inventor or applicant.
The search engines available here through
(esp@cenet) access a variety of patent filings (United Kingdom, European, Patent Cooperation Treaty/World International Property Organization, worldwide, and Japanese) in English, French, and German. Filings are retrievable in Portable Document Format, which requires the Adobe Acrobat Reader for viewing. There’s a link for downloading the reader, which is free.
Twenty European countries have separate engines in their national languages: Austria, Belgium, Cypress, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Hellenic Republic, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
The site also maintains searchable databases of European Patent Office boards of appeals decisions and European patent attorneys and conventions.
An English language service, launched this summer, allows searching Korean patent abstracts, which include information (updated weekly) on the status of applications.
Thai Department of Intellectual Property Industrial Property Information Search Patent
The searchable database includes bibliographic data and abstracts for Thai patent applications. The department's physical library also contains a range of U.S.,
U.K., Australian, Japanese, European Patent Office and WIPO filings, but the site's fine print seems to indicate that those databases are available only on library computers. The search engine recognizes keywords, Boolean operators, and a variety of criteria.
Though the site is still up, the English language search and user guide
pages were not accessible when I updated this column.
The Intellectual Property Office's patent and design search engines accept a variety of criteria, including class, party, date, and action. Registered users may save search criteria.
The USPTO provides information from the PTO’s internal database about pending or registered marks through the Trademark Electronic Search System or TESS. TESS offers three means of searching. TESS’ new user or basic search form retrieves word marks, serial or registration numbers, and owners. The structured form search looks for keywords in more than 30 title fields, such as abandonment, filing or registration date, design code, description of mark, international class, or owner. This form also allows limited use of Boolean operators. The free form or advanced search handles more complicated queries and recognizes wildcard operators (such as the asterisk). For tips on using the free form option, look in the help menu. Look under News! to learn the most complete paper and electronic filing dates, as well as when each was put into TESS.
Among the compendium of trademark links at this site is a search engine for federal registrations. The query boxes handle exact names, wild cards, and/or keywords in specified categories such as goods/services description and owner or attorney name.
Alaska: Alaska's trademark query form searches by the mark, owner's name, classification, or key.
Arizona: The Secretary of State includes includes trademarks and trade names in the database of searchable trade names, corporations, partnerships and limited liability companies.
Arkansas: The Secretary of State’s corporations database includes trademark filings.
Colorado: Trademark records are included in the online business records database maintained by the Secretary of State.
Florida: The Secretary of State’s Sunbiz utility retrieves trademarks and names of their owners.
Georgia: The Secretary of State’s database of registered trademarks is updated daily.
Louisiana: The Secretary of State’s corporations database includes trademarks.
Maine: Trademarks are part of the Secretary of State's new Interactive Corporate Services. Subscribers to InforME, the Information Resource of Main, may print plain or certified copies of filings from the site.
Maryland: The Secretary of State has a search engine for summary information pertaining to trademark registrations.
Minnesota: The Secretary of State offers direct access to its business records database for a nominal fee. A two-week trial is available at no cost.
Jersey: The State Business Gateway Service includes trademarks in its online filings database. The Browse Names Free of Charge option allows several types of searching (yes, the nomenclature is inconsistent): by mark alone, by mark and location or filing date, by owner name alone, and by owner name.
(Although there is a box for searching by location, it is not availabel for
trademarks. Registration is necessary to log on to the service or to receive a status report for a selected business entity.
North Carolina: The Secretary of State accepts e-mail inquiries about the contents of its trademark database, which is not currently online.
North Dakota: The Business Record Search database contains all active trademarks and those inactivated within the past 12 months.
Ohio: The Business Inquiries Database includes trademark filings. When you click the link to proceed into the database, however, the available search methods do not clearly encompass trademarks. The Business Name Inquiry is the most likely method.
Tennessee: The Secretary of State's searchable trademark database covers active and pending trademarks, current as of three working days prior to the date of viewing.
Texas: The Secretary of State’s fee-based Online Access system (SOSDirect) includes trademark filings.
Utah: Trademark registrations appear in the Department of Commerce's Business Entity Search database. Check "Details" to ascertain the most recent updating. (As of this writing, the trademark entries were about two weeks behind.)
Vermont: A trademark name finder is among the Secretary of State’s searchable databases.
West Virginia: Some trademark data is indexed in the Secretary of State Business Information System, to prevent new corporations from registering names that infringe on trade or service marks. The Secretary of State maintains a separate database for trademark searches, which the office will search, for a fee, on request. Search information appears at the trademark page.
Wyoming: The Secretary of State’s corporations database includes trademark filings.
Australia Trademark On-Line Search System: ATMOSS contains registrations and pending applications. It is updated within minutes of changes to the office computer; the capture of applications on both systems may run up to two weeks behind after filing.
Canadian Intellectual Property Office Canadian Trade-Mark
The database contains all active marks; some inactive ones; all marks that were canceled, expunged, abandoned, or refused after 1979; and some that were canceled, expunged, abandoned, or refused before 1979. It also includes words and designs that are protected by legislation or otherwise not available for registration. The site discloses when it was most recently updated.
European Union Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market Trade Marks and Designs: This is the registration site for European Union trademarks and does not as yet include designs. The CTM-Online database has a simple keyword search engine, which will also search by registration number.
New Zealand: The Intellectual Property Office's search engine accepts a variety of criteria based on the mark, date, action, party, class, and other characteristics. The site allows registered users to save search criteria.
DialogIP provides U.S. copyright filings, as well as U.S. and foreign trademarks and patents. You may retrieve patent documents for a per-item charge or subscribe for member access; the trademarks and U.S. copyright databases require a subscription.
Copyrights & Trademarks
Thomson & Thomson has an online service with multiple features called SAEGIS. It allows you to comb the Web for occurrences of (or domain names incorporating) a proposed mark and receive e-mail notification of registrability. Thomson & Thomson’s extensive menu of search services may be ordered through the Web site (such as U.S. or Canadian copyright searches or trademark searches covering federal, state, Canadian, and European databases). Pricing varies by service.
Patents & Trademarks
Micro-Patent offers online access to patent and trademark filings. Patent searches (via Patent Web) include worldwide front page information (from the U.S., Japan, European Patent Office, and Patent Cooperation Treaty), full text of U.S., EPO, and PCT documents as early as 1836 (for U.S.), and Japanese abstracts, dating back as far as 1976. A customizable alert service is now available, which sends out e-mail notices of patent filings that match a user-defined profile.
Micro-Patent's trademark services go by the name of Trademark.com. It boasts access to complete and up-to-date federal and state filings, common law trademark data (based on business usage), and Network Solutions’ top-level domain name registrations, as well as Canadian, United Kingdom, European Union, and WIPO records. Planned expansions during 2002 include Benelux, French, and German filings. The site offers 12-hour subscriptions to a variety of database packages; annual subscriptions are also available.
Chemical Patents Plus: Despite the name, this service offers the full text for all classes of patents issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office from 1975 to the present, with partial coverage from 1971-1974 and complete page images from 1995 on. Searching is free (though registration is required), as is viewing patent titles, CAS registration numbers and abstracts. Further information, from the patent number to the entire patent, is priced on a per-item basis.
Community of Science: This site maintains a searchable bibliographic database of U.S. patents issued since 1975. The main search engine supports a variety of limiting parameters, such as patent number, date, assignee, inventor, title, abstract, exemplary claims (for recent years), and U.S. and international classifications. It’s also possible to search by state, country, or classification. Key to this site’s appeal is its patent citation tracking feature, which uncovers patent references to or by a particular registration. Annual subscriptions begin at $250 for an individual.
Delphion Intellectual Property Network: This site grew out of the IBM Intellectual Property Network (once known as the IBM Patent Server), after IBM teamed up with a company called Internet Capital Group in mid-2000 and spun the network off into a privately held company. IBM's internal researchers initially developed this network for their own use, so no wonder the scope is impressive. The U.S. database covers applications since March 2001, full text and images in patent grants from 1971 on, and full images dating from 1790-1971. Seven types of foreign records, all of which use bibliographic text, are also available:
· European patent applications (with full images, since 1979,
and full text, since 1987) and registrations (with full images, since 1980,
and full text, since 1991);
· Abstracts of Japanese applications (with representative images, since October 1976);
· Patent Cooperation Treaty documents (with full text and images, since 1978);
· International INPADOC patent family documents (patents with similar claims from a variety of countries) from 65 patent offices and legal status information from 22 patent offices, both since 1968;
· Images from the Swiss Patent Office, from Jan 15, 1990; and
· The Derwent World Patents Index, which has English language abstracts, enhanced titles, and images of patents in more than 42 countries since 1963
The U.S. bibliographic data is available at no charge to registered users. For the rest of the resources, Delphion offers two levels of subscription programs, Unlimited and Premier (which entails pay-per-use charges for Derwent and other features).
You can search by descriptive word or patent number, or enter an identifier such as inventor, assignee, title, claims or agent in the Advanced Text Search form (which now requires a subscription to access). The search results report how many patents matched the request and displays the most relevant, which you can read in detail or order (for a fee) by fax , mail, or download. Two unusual resources remain free: the Gallery of Obscure Patents (such as a Braille slot machine) and the Gallery of Historic Patents, which displays images of the electric light bulb, dishwashing machine, hypodermic syringe and other innovations.
Derwent.com: The British patent and scientific information firm offers several intellectual property databases and services, which are available online through such partners as Delphion, Dialog Select, and Westlaw. The Derwent World Patents Index (WPI) covers data from 40 patent-issuing authorities, with an emphasis on European, while the Patents Citation Index (PCI) draws on data from six major patent offices. The Innovations Index merges information from the WPI and PCI. A user-customized portion of the WPI is available as the Derwent Selection.
GetThePatent.com: This subscription service, owned by the Massachusetts technology research and development company Cartesian Products, Inc., offers images of all U.S. patents (dating back to 1790), the full and bibliographic text for U.S. patents issued since 1976, all published U.S. applications, images for European Patent Office and Patent Cooperation Treaty patents, and information from the national publications of France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, and Switzerland. The service uses a hyper-compressed file format that requires special (free) software for viewing and navigation. The service will save and rerun searches and e-mail the results at no cost; search options include keyword, use of Boolean operators, and patent number. In addition to a number of monthly subscription plans, the fee structure allows for non-subscription use at $2.99 a patent. A guest account is available allowing retrieval of five patents at no charge.
Nerac.com: The patent services include investigating existing patents and monitoring new applications, from an archive that encompasses full images of U.S. patents since 1974, European Patent Office applications since 1978 and grants since 1991, and PCT applications since 1986. The site also offers the U.S. Patent Gazette back to 1970 (with full claims starting in 1997) and unexamined Japanese patent abstracts since 1976. The Technology Tracking feature provides alerts on new industry developments and patent applications.
MarksOnline.com offers a watch service that provides a weekly report of applications and registrations of marks that match a user-specified profile. Pricing is $60 for six months, $100 for a year. A similar service is available for monitoring domain names.
NameProtect.com: This business-oriented trademark registration service will monitor filings in the U.S. and Canada, as well as potentially infringing domain name registrations.
Trademarkbots.com: This service reports weekly on trademark occurrences it has found in trademark and domain name databases, on Web pages, and in chat rooms, message boards, publications, newspapers, and Web feeds.
©Kathy Biehl 2002. All Rights Reserved.