Introduction to Espacenet

Here are some basic things you need to know before using Espacenet

About patents

Patents are legal titles protecting inventions. They offer a temporary private right to the holder of the invention who can prevent others from using his patented invention.

Such an exclusive position is often necessary to recoup the R&D investments that where necessary to develop the invention. The patent system therefore promotes innovation by financially rewarding inventors.

About Patent databases

As any exclusive ownership rights, patents must be accessible to the public if the owner wants to exert his right. Today, patents are usually published and accessible through electronic means.

In several technical fields, Patents are the most efficient source of information for the following reasons.

  • Accessibility: All patent documents have a universal format for the bibliographic data. More than 50 different fields, each representing valuable technical or strategic information, are accessible for each Patent. In addition to this, Patents are classified according to internationally agreed systems, which divides technical domains into more than 100,000 subdivisions.
  • Content: A patent, to be valid, should enable a person skilled in that particular area to reproduce the invention. This strict requirement explains why 70% of the information contained in Patents is not available elsewhere. When a catalogue or an article describes a product in a few lines, the corresponding Patent often consists of 20 pages. Patents represent about 350 million of A4 pages containing very relevant technical information.
  • Concentration: Full patent collections are often present in national Patent Office archives.From a relevant list of patent documents you will need one or two hours in a patent library to collect all the data. In comparison, you will usually need several weeks to order and receive the references quoted in a thesis.
  • Up to date: A company is not inclined to make its inventions public. To get a legal protection for the invention, the company generally files the Patent Application at the earliest possible stage. Patent Applications are normally published 18 months after their first filing date and therefore very often represent the first published information available.In other words newly published Patents are the most up-to-date information available in a specific field.

About Coverage and Content

Do not expect to cover the whole state-of-the-art by searching in national Patents only.

Databases available on Espacenet have also some limitations in the number and the quality of fields accessible that should be considered when drawing conclusions from the result of a search.

Commercial patent databases usually offer extra value, by the number of fields you can access, and due to the content of the abstract that has been rewritten to facilitate easieraccess to the document by keyword searches.

To sum up, a patent database user should always be aware of the content of the database he is using and know the limitations of the fields.

About Classification

Patents are classified according to various classification schemes covering all possible technical domains. When conducting a search, it is essential to systematically use this tool that offers an objective criteria to access relevant documents. Keywords are much more subjective as there are many words to describe a same concept.