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Patent Information

Information is a strategic resource for business success, but too often the invaluable contents of patent databases are overlooked.

Espacenet: patent data for business

Information is a strategic resource for business success. Tech-based enterprises are hungry for information on technology, trends and competitors. But too often the invaluable information contained in patent databases is overlooked!

Patent applications are rich in the very latest technical and scientific research, and can be read for free. They are published as part of the patent granting process, even though many of them might eventually be refused.

The patent databases are often a prime source of answers to questions like: What is happening in the latest technologies? Who are my competitors and what are they up to? Should we invest in developing a new technology, or is it easier to license-in an existing solution?

Espacenet from the EPO is probably the biggest free patent database online. It contains not just European patents, but in fact has over 80 million documents collected from patent offices all over the world.

The European Patent Register can help you to understand the status of a particular patent - who owns it, in which countries is it in force or where it has lapsed.

A logical order

With millions of patents in dozens of languages, a simple keyword search in a patent database can return thousands of documents - most of which were not what you were looking for. Very frustrating!

Sophisticated classification systems have logically arranged technologies into groups so that searching is much more effective and targeted. With the right classification term in the "Advanced" search form, you can limit a search for a particular feature to only one particular technical area, giving greater relevance to your search.

Patent maps lead to buried treasure

Whilst one patent document might be useful because of its technical description, one hundred patents are useful in quite a different way. Too numerous to read and understand individually, large volumes of patents can be gathered into groups according to technology, ownership, age or other criteria, and then plotted graphically to make "maps". This information supports boardroom decisions about potential partners, new competition, freedom-to-operate, investment opportunities and emerging trends. Crucially patent mapping and visualisation tools reveal the relationships between individual patents and their combined impact on a business. They enable board members to have an overview of complex technology landscapes and take the decisions which lead to buried treasure.

Do you speak patent?

No matter which languages you can read, it is a fact that the majority of patents will be in languages you can't. You might be lucky and find another patent in the same "family" (related patents from the same applicant for the same invention but from different countries) in a language you know. And at least technical diagrams can be understood in any language!

But to bring out the wealth of technical information in patents regardless of language, Patent Translate software now provides instant high quality machine translation between English and Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Russian, as well as between English and all 27 other European languages. Furthermore, translation between French or German and 17 other European languages is also possible.

What is more, the Espacenet interface is available in over 20 European languages, plus Russian, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. And the EPO's Asian Patent Information Helpdesk provides translation services and can advise users with retrieving patent information from the online collections of several Asian patent offices.

The European Patent Office's mission is to uphold competitive markets for technology and to disseminate vast volumes of technical information through patent databases.

Benoît Battistelli President European Patent Office