Patent databases are very useful for researchers in many ways:
They provide very valuable information previous to initiating research, with the aim of learning about the prior art in the field of the work to be done. They help prevent expending great effort in time or money on research that has already been conducted, and even assist avoiding the risk of infringement upon patents held by third parties. According to 2001 data from the European Patent Office, approximately 20 billion Euros per year are lost in attempts to patent already existing results.
They allow evaluating the patentability of inventions, learning the invention’s degree of compliance with respect to its novelty and inventive step, both essential requirements in order for the invention to be protected by a patent.
They grant very useful information when it comes time to learning about companies interested in the invention’s field of application, as well as the personnel involved with the research related with the invention and the countries where investment exists in this field.
The primary patent databases offering free access are the following:
SPANISH PATENT and TRADEMARK OFFICE: Resources to access other databases and the status of patent applications.
ESPACENET: This is the most important resource today in patent searches. It allows accessing the entire document.
WIPO: World Intellectual Property Organization. This allows searching patent applications on a worldwide level.
USPTO: United States Patent and Trademark Office, showing US applications.