Searching for Patent Info on the Internet

C. S. Prakash Prakash at Acd.Tusk.Edu
Mon May 5 18:06:56 EST 1997

Article reproduced from May 1997 issue of ISB News Report

Ever since the U. S. Supreme Court upheld an award of a patent to
Ananda Chakrabarty for a genetically engineered organism in 1980,
patents have become an integral fuel driving the commercial
biotechnology boom. Biotechnology researchers are actively patenting
many new products and processes arising from their inventions. Patent
application documents contain a wealth of descriptive information and
are very useful to researchers and students wishing to keep up with the
cutting-edge advances in biotechnology. While patent searches yield
valuable information on technological breakthroughs, they are also
necessary if you want to file a new patent application, avoid patent
infringement and lawsuits, and explore licensing opportunities. Thanks
to the Internet, now you can obtain patent information right at your
desktop. You can conduct patent searches at no cost and retrieve full
patent texts as email or downloadable documents. You can also have them
faxed or mailed to you for a small fee. There are many patent-related
Web sites with varying complexities and pricing and we list here few
such sites.

- The National Agricultural Library of USDA has a Web page
  (http://www.nal.usda. gov/bic/Biotech_Patents/) on U.S.
  agricultural biotechnology patent issues with some excellent links
  to patent resources. Full text of patents issued in agricultural
  biotechnology during 1995 and 1996 is available.

- The Yahoo site ( Law/Intellectual_Property/)
  provides links to many resources such as companies, institutions,
  magazines and newsgroups related to patenting.

- The U. S. Patent and Trademark Office's Web site
  ( lets you conduct no-cost searches using
  key words, assignee, inventor, subject or patent number. The
  database covers patents issued since 1976 and includes information
  in the patent abstract, related patents and references.  Complete
  documents can be ordered for a small price ($3 by mail).

- The IBM Patent Server ( holds two
  million patents dating from 1971 and allows a free search. The
  resulting displays contain abstracts, names of inventors, related
  patent numbers, claims and references.  You can also view at no
  cost the actual image of the first and last pages of patent
  documents issued since 1980.  Printed full text copies can be
  obtained through mail for $2.50 or through fax ($9 and up).

- Possibly the most useful site for patent searches is MicroPatent's
  PatentWeb site ( which has many freebies
  such as the ability to search and retrieve full text documents of
  any U.S. patent issued during the past two weeks.  Another useful
  feature is being able to obtain instantly, by email, any complete
  patent document for $1.50. You can also download (for $3) original
  patent documents with images which could be viewed immediately
  using free software. Such documents may include figures such as
  drawings of plasmid or equipment, and thus often provide
  additional detailed information. MicroPatent site also delivers
  International (EP and PCT) patent documents.

C. S. Prakash
Center for Plant Biotechnology Research
Tuskegee University
prakash at

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