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Patents Guide

Introduction to Patents

What is a patent in Canada?

  • A patent is a legal document granted to you by the Government of Canada.
  • A patent confirms your exclusive right to your invention for up to 20 years!.
  • A patented invention can be a product, a composition, a machine, a process or an improvement to any of these.
  • A patent gives you a competitive edge since it can help protect your invention.
  • A patent can help prevent others from using your invention.
  • A patent can help negotiate financing options.
  • A patent can help license your invention to others.
  • A patent can ultimately be sold to other by the patent holder/owner.
  • Your invention can become a patent if it is new, useful and inventive.

Why search for patent literature?

  • To find out about the most recent inventions
  • Identify new research fronts
  • To study the development of a particular technology
  • To figure out licensing opportunities
  • To avoid duplication of research efforts and save time and resources
  • To learn how something works via patent diagrams and detailed descriptions
  • To find information on a company’s activities (new inventions and growth areas)
  • To identify experts in a given field
  • To gain protection for an idea or invention if it doesn’t already exist
  • Most firms/companies only disclose technical information regarding their products/technologies only in Patents

Challenges of Patent Literature: 

  • Patents don't describe inventions as they appear in the market (for example: patents don't include product names).
  • Patents may cover broader concepts and they don't specify the final packaging, detailing, manufacturing processes, trademarked names, and other aspects of products.
  • As a result of this, searching patents by names of products, rarely provides a direct path to the invention in question. 
  • Final product names are often determined long after patents are filed (trademarks rather than patents protect product names). 
  • In addition, the final product may be an amalgamation of several patents.  
  • Patents can be difficult to read as they are legal documents and usually written with many legal jargon.
  • Some patents lack specifications, technical standards, or other types of descriptive content.
  • While patent applications are subject to examination by patent examiners, they do not employ a peer-review scientific process. As such, patents are not required to demonstrate a proof of success through experiments and processes usually associated with scientific research.


Canadian Intellectual Property Office - CIPO. (2020). Patents.  Retrieved from:

MIT Libraries. (2020). Patents Guide. Retrieved from:

Patent Databases

Patent Databases 

Canadian Patents Database (CIPO)

CIPO's Canadian Patent Database let you access 93 years of patent descriptions and images. You can search, retrieve and study more than 2,140,000 patent documents.

U.S. Patent Databases (USPTO)

U.S. patents, 1790 to present and published applications, 2001 to present. Patents prior to 1976 can be retrieved by number, date and classification. In order to download or print a full PDF patent document, you must have a PDF viewer plug-in installed in your Web browser.


Espacenet offers free access to more than 80 million patent documents worldwide, containing information about inventions and technical developments from 1836 to today.

PatentScope (WIPO)

PATENTSCOPE provides access to over 30 million patent documents including 2.2 million published international patent applications (PCT). Detailed coverage information can be found here

Patent Lens

Full-text of over ten million patent documents from US, Europe, Australia and WIPO, their status and counterparts up to 70 countries.


SciFinder is a key database for chemistry, chemical and biochemical engineering, environmental sciences, materials science, and geochemistry. Its coverage includes journal articles, conference papers and patents from many patent issuing organizations. You can search by research topic, chemical substance, structure and substructure.


Over 24.4 million Patent records from the following five patent offices are available via Scopus: World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), European Patent Office, US Patent Office, Japanese Patent Office and UK Intellectual Property Office.

Google Patents

Google Patents is a search engine from Google that indexes patents and patent applications from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), European Patent Office (EPO), and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). These documents include the entire collection of granted patents and published patent applications from each database.

Free Patents Online

Provides fast, easy-to-use and free access to millions of patents and patent applications. US, European, Japanese and World patent documents from 1974 to present.


Patent data sources available and integrated in the Lens include: The European Patent Office, USPTO, European Patent Office (EP), WIPO, and IP Australia.










Citing Patents

APA Style 

References (Example)

        Smith, I. M. (1988). U.S. Patent No. 123,445. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

In Text Citations:

        U.S. Patent No. 123,445 (1988)

        (U.S. Patent No. 123,445, 1998)

For more examples and details please see the APA Publication Manual


IEEE Style

Basic Format:

[1] J. K. Author, “Title of patent,” U.S. Patent x xxx xxx, Abbrev. Month, day, year.


[1] J. P. Wilkinson, “Nonlinear resonant circuit devices,” U.S. Patent 3 624 125, July 16, 1990.

NOTE: Use “issued date” if several dates are given.

For more information please see the IEEE Manual


The ACS Style Guide


Sheem, S. K. Low-Cost Fiber Optic Pressure Sensor. U.S. Patent 6,738,537, May 18, 2004.

Petrovick, P. R.; Carlini, E. Antiulcerogenic Preparation from Maytenus ilicifolia
     and Obtaintion Process. Br. Patent PI 994502, March 6, 1999.

Langhals, H.; Wetzel, F. Perylene Pigments with Metallic Effects. Ger. Offen. DE
     10357978.8, Dec 11, 2003; Chem. Abstr. 2005, 143, 134834.

Shimizu, Y.; Kajiyama, H. (Kanebo, Ltd., Japan; Kanebo Synthetic Fibers, Ltd.).
     Jpn. Kokai Tokkyo Koho JP 2004176197 A2 20040624, 2004.

For more information please see The ACS Style Guide


Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition, 2010)


Names, Creator. Patent title. Patent number, and year of filing.


Iizuka, Masanori, and Hideki Tanaka.  Cement admixture.  US Patent 4,586,960, filed June 26, 1984, and issued May 6, 1986.

For more information please see the Chicago manual of style


MLA Style

This style manual does not specifically mention how to cite a patent; however, it can be extrapolated based on the typical MLA style for other types of materials.


Last Name, First Name. "Patent name." Patent XXX. Date.

(The date must be in Day Month Year format.)


Saunders, Terry. "Scraper plane." CA Patent 2,477,363. 10 August 2004. 

For more information please see the MLA Style Manual


Writing & Study Skills Centre - Citation Help


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Subject Specialties:
Engineering and Computer Science