Patent Searching: Necessity is the Mother of Invention, or Apparatus for Facilitating the Birth of a Child by Centrifugal Force

If your research involves looking for patents, there are both subscription and free sources that you might find useful.  One of the subscription sources available through Rice Library is LexisNexis® Academic (LNA).  To complete a patent search in LNA, from the database’s main page open the “US Legal” section located along the left sidebar menu and click on the link labeled “Patents.”  The “Patents” search screen allows you to search by keywords and phrases anywhere in the patent or limit your search to patent number, applicant name, application number, assignee, inventor, or patent title.  Users may also limit the search to specific dates or date ranges and to specific patent sources, including both foreign and domestic patents.
One of the free sources which many patent hunters find useful is Google Patents.  For those serious researchers using this source, the “Advanced Patent Search” mode is recommended.  Here you are able to search by patent number, title, inventor, assignee, U.S. or international classification, document status, patent type, and issue or filing dates.
Perhaps one of the best free patent search engines is FreePatentsOnline.  Users of this site are encouraged to create their own free account to make use of its full functionality and to avoid much of the advertising that clutters the result lists if the user is not logged in.  The site provides multiple search methods, including both Quick and Expert modes for patent searches as well as a Chemical Search.  There are also a number of value-added features, including a University Patent search, a section on Design Patents, and lists of Most Popular Patenting Companies and Most Popular Patent Topics.  One of my favorite features is Patent Maps which shows graphically the patents that were awarded within specific geographic areas within the U.S.  Another is Crazy Patents which does indeed include a patent for an “Apparatus for facilitating the birth of a child by centrifugal force” along with several others including “Subliminal Glasses” and “Dog Nose Art.”  The site continues to add new features and functionality.  Most recently it has added the full text of thousands of articles drawn from over 150 research journals.  Those seeking a brief introduction to FreePatentsOnline might benefit from a tutorial developed by the MIT Libraries.  This tutorial along with three others related to patents are available here.

There are, of course, other useful sources for searching patent literature, including the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.  For an excellent summary comparison of the features available in four of the most popular of these sources, visit the MIT Libraries’ Patents LibGuide.
For assistance with these or other Rice Library resources or service, please contact the library’s Reference Desk at 812/464-1907.

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