Friday, April 2, 2010

Intellectual Property Resources for Innovators

Intellectual Property (IP) is an issue of utmost importance to inventors and innovators that is often overlooked.  In this post, we describe what IP is  and provide URLs with information about different IP topics of interest to people in the (open) innovation community.

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, Intellectual Property can be divided into two categories: Industrial Property, and Copyrights ( WIPO defines industrial property to include "inventions (patents), trademarks, industrial designs, and geographical indications of source" and copyright to include "literary and artistic works such as novels, poems and plays, films, musical works, artistic works such as drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures, and architectural designs."

For more information on industrial property and copyrights, one can look at the following two WIPO reports available in PDF format:

In general, the intellectual property right of most use to inventors and innovators is a patent.  A patent is an exclusive right, of limited duration (usually 20 years from filing a patent application). granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides, in general, a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem. A point that is often misunderstood and has to be emphasized is that a patent is a negative right. It gives its owner the right to exclude others from making, using, distributing or selling his invention.  It does not however give its owner the right to make, use, distribute or sell his invention. 

A patent is granted only by a national patent office (such as the USPTO - United States Patent and Trademark Office) or a regional patent office (such as the EPO - European Patent Office).  In the case of regional offices such as the EPO, each country has the right to decide whether to offer patent protection within its borders.  What exists, however, and simplifies greatly the patent application procedure is the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) that is administered by the WIPO.  Under the PCT, an applicant files a single international patent application and then requests protection in as many PCT countries as required.

More details about patent applications procedures can be found in the following URLs:

Intellectual Property e-Learning Resources

Readers that are interested in learning more about intellectual property can also access the following two e-learning websites:
  • IP PANORAMA:  WIPO's advanced e-learning site designed to help SMEs utilize and manage Intellectual Property in their business strategy.
  • EPO's e-learning platform:  a learning management system (KMS) providing material covering a wide-range of patent-related topics.

Resources for Patent Search (Prior-art Search)

In order to figure out whether to proceed with a patent application or not, inventors, sometimes with the help of trained IP professionals, often have to look into what has been patented in the past.  This search in issued patents and published patent applications is called Prior-art Search. Resources that allow for prior-art searches are as follows:
  • Google Patents has a free database of US patents for now.  Google plans to expand its coverage to patents outside the US in the future.
  • This EPO website has a database that allows search on European issued patents and patent applications:
  • This USPTO website has a searchable database with US issued patents and patent applications.                                                                              
  • Intellectual Property EXchange Limited (IPEXL) has a database with more than 60 million patents  from PCT, EPO, INPADOC, China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, US, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia.
  • SurfIP, a project by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, has a database with patents and published patent applications from the US, Singapore, Europe (EPO), China, Canada, Korea, Taipei, UK, Thailand and Japan. The only problem is that for now they only support Internet Explorer.
Intellectual Property and Open Innovation  

We conclude by providing references to useful articles, reports and presentations dealing with Intellectual Property and Open Innovation, the topic of our blog.  
Comments are always welcome!

The Open Innovation Team
(You can also find us on Twitter)


  1. Hi! thanks for posting this! I just wanted to add that there are quite a few additional patent search resources out there - both free and subscription. For example, for coverage of asian patent collections, you could consider adding SurfIP or IPEXL to your list. The website I work for,, has a number of in-depth reviews of these patent search products. You can find a list of these reviews here:

    In addition to these formal reviews, Intellogist is an open wiki platform where anyone can write reviews and submit information about new search products - these are called "Community Reports," and can be found here:

    Finally, to extend the information you gave about patents in general, I just wanted to let you know that Intellogist also offers a glossary of related patent terms - this is an open wiki also, and we'd love to have you come by and contribute!

    I love the IP PANORAMA tutorials by the way - I'm glad you linked to those because I think they're excellent for people who are looking to get oriented in the IP world. The EPO also has a vast collection of resources. Overall I think this is a really nice overview for people looking to understand more about patent searching - thanks for posting!

  2. Hello Kristin! Thank you for your kind words! I really appreciate the pointers to the Asian patent collections.

    I will look into the resources your provided for Intellogist. They definitely deserve a study.

    I totally agree with you. The IP Panorama and the EPO e-learning websites are absolutely fantastic for people just looking to understand the IP world.

    Thanks again,