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Nowadays nearly all patents published by the major patent agencies are freely available on the web. Although ancillary filing information may be restricted or only available for a fee, the contents of granted patents and many patent applications usually are available through online patent databases.
The USPTO also distributes copies of patents, as well as related research materials, through its Patent and Trademark Resource Centers (PTRCs), which are charged with assisting the public in obtaining information about intellectual property (IP) and are located throughout the USA. These are listed in the PTRC Library List (the one nearest to Tufts is located at the Boston Public Library). As a government repository, Tisch Library at Tufts collects U.S. patents in both print and microform formats; these are located in the Tisch Government Documents Collection.
Because of their availability through Tisch Library, PTRCs, and online resources, patents are not provided through Tufts’ interlibrary loan (ILLIAD) service.
This guide covers the use of patents and trademarks in the research process, particularly for engineering, business, entrepreneurship, and related disciplines. It does not provide guidelines on writing or filing patents. For any patent activity related to the use of Tufts' resources, please contact the Office for Technology Transfer and Licensing.
On September 16, 2011, President Barack Obama signed into law the America Invents Act of 2011 (Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, H.R. 1249). Representing the first major patent reform bill in 60 years, the Act's purpose is to reduce barriers to innovation, speed up the introduction of new products to the market, create more jobs for U.S. workers, and hasten the awarding of good patents while weeding out bad patents and reducing patent litigation. The Act also brings the U.S. more in line with other countries by transitioning to a "First-Inventor-to-File" system.
Patents are rights granted by a government to an individual or legal entity. These rights exclude other parties from using or profiting from an invention for (usually) 20 years from the date of filing. Although the primary purpose of patents is to protect the rights of inventors from infringement on their designs, patents offer great value as a research tool. They can be used for the following purposes:
Despite their research value, patents present challenges: