Information for : Researchers Patents | DCU Library

Information for Researchers


What is a patent?
A patent is a legal document granted by a government to an inventor, giving them the exclusive right make, use, sell or licence their invention. Patents are granted for a fixed period of time (usually 20 years) and are usually first taken out in their country of origin but can be granted in more than one country. Patents are granted to an industrial processes or to significant improvements to existing ones and to new products including chemical compounds, foods and drugs.

Why search patents?

  • As part of your literature review. Patent searching keeps you up to date with the latest innovations in your field. Details of new technologies are usually first published in patents before they appear in conferences and journals and may not appear elsewhere.
  • To learn how something works. Patents contain detailed technical information with illustrations.
  • To check if a concept or invention has been patented already before your start a new research project or spin-off venture.
  • To find information on a company’s activities, or identify experts in a field.

Patent Support for DCU Researchers

If you have a novel idea but you're not sure what steps to take next to protect it, contact the Invent DCU Intellectual Property and Commercialisation Team as early as possible in your research.

The Library's Subject Librarians can help you with patent searching. We can advise you on the the best search tools to suit your needs and how to conduct a comprehensive patent search.

Saving Patent Searches

We have found that RefWorks, DCU Library's reference management software, isn't readily compatible with most patent databases. Zotero, a free, open-source application, works with most of the patent databases we recommend. Once you have saved records with Zotero, its easy to transfer them to your RefWorks account if you wish.


Recommended Patent Resources


Espacenet covers three databases:

  1. EP: patent applications published by the European Patent Office over the last 24 months
  2. WIPO: patent applications published by WIPO in the last 24 months
  3. worldwide: published patent applications from over 90 different countries and regions, including US patents indexed by title and inventor from 1920. 

Notes: Espacenet only allows searching by title and abstract but this will only give your general information - you may miss technical information from a patent's claims
Full Text: Yes.
Help: tutorial


Free Patents Online


  • US full text 1976 to present
  • Europe full text 1978 to present
  • Japan full text1991 to present
  • WIPO full text 1978 to present
  • seems to be updated regularly but there's no info. on how often
  • further details here


Full text: Yes
Help: Help and tutorials:


Google Patents


  • "USPTO from patents issued in the 1790s through those most recently issued in the past few months".
  • Does not contain patent applications
  • All pre-1976 patents can be searched by keywords (unlike USPTO), but there are errors and inconsistencies
  • No info. on how frequently it is updated
  • Further info

Notes: RSS search alerts available (see the link at the bottom of the search results page)
Full text: Yes


PatentScope (World Intellectual Property Organization WIPO)



  • RSS search alerts
  • Statistical data, including your search results in graphical form, showing number of applications per year.

Full text: Yes




  • Covers patents from chemistry and related sciences: Proteomics; Genomics; Biochemistry; Biochemical genetics; Organic; Macromolecular; Applied Physical; inorganic; analytical.
  • Patent offices covered: Canada (CIPO); European Patent Office (EPO); France (INPI); Germany (DPMA); Japan (JPO); Russia (ROSPATENT); UK (UK-IPO); US (USPTO); World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
  • Further details: CAS Coverage of Patents | Coverage of CA Basic Patents by Year

Notes: Can export to RefWorks and EndNote. Instructions here.
Full text: Links to full-text where available.



Coverage:US, European and WIPO organic chemistry patents from publication year 1976 onwards. Further details here.
Full text: Links to full-text where available.



Coverage: A complete, up-to-date collection of US patents and patent applications from 1790. Patents before 1976 can only be searched by patent number, year or classification

  • USPTO is difficult to use. You must install a browser plugin before you can view images. After that its difficult to navigate - you can't view text and images on the same page and
  • You must search for issued patents and patent applications separately.

Full text: Yes