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Some basic things you need to know before using Espacenet

Introduction to Espacenet

Here are some basic things you should know before using Espacenet. 

About patents

Patents are legal titles that protect inventions. They give their holder a temporary private right to prevent others from using his patented invention. This is often necessary to recoup the R&D investment needed to develop the invention. The patent system thus promotes innovation by financially rewarding inventors.

About patent databases

In exchange for this exclusive right, the patent holder must publicly disclose details of the invention. Today, patents are usually published and consulted using electronic means.

In many technical fields, patents are the optimum source of information for the following reasons:

  • Accessibility: All patent documents have a universal format for their bibliographic data. More than 50 different fields, each representing valuable technical or strategic information, are accessible for each patent. In addition, patents are classified according to internationally agreed systems which break technology down into more than 100 000 subdivisions.
  • Content: A patent has to enable a person skilled in the technical field concerned to reproduce the invention. This strict requirement explains why, when a catalogue or an article describes a product in a few lines, the patent for that product may consist of 20 or more pages.
  • Up to date: To get legal protection for an invention, a company generally files a patent application as soon as possible. Patent applications are normally published 18 months after their first filing date and therefore often represent the earliest published information available.

About coverage and content

Do not expect to cover the whole prior art by searching in national patents only.

Espacenet limits the number of fields you can access; you should bear that in mind when evaluating the result of a search.

Commercial patent databases usually offer

  • more fields
  • enhanced text, and
  • enhanced indexing.

You should always be aware of the content of the database you are using, and know its limitations.

About classification

Patents are classified according to various schemes covering all possible technical fields. You should systematically use classifications that provide an objective way of finding relevant documents. Keywords can be unreliable as there are often multiple words describing a particular concept.

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