Patents

A patent describes the uniqueness of an invention, generally it covers products or processes that contain new functional or technological aspects. The patent gives the applicant the right to prohibit the commercial use of his invention by others for a certain period of time. To obtain this right, the applicant must disclose how his invention functions or what his new product is made of.

A patent application contains these elements: Title, technical subject area, state of technology, purpose of the invention, proposed solution, description of the invention, list of illustrations (if any), detailed description of at least one prototype.

A patent search can provide interesting insights into the state-of-the art of technology. An exhaustive patent search should, however, be performed by a specialist.

Derwent Innovation Index

Patent database with explanations (abstracts) for each patented invention. Similar patents are grouped in patent families and precise classification of patents.
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Espacenet

Patents: Espacenet, the database of the European Patent Office, contains patent information (original documents including illustrations) from 72 countries and regions.
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