Can I obtain access to copies of patents?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Nov 23, 2010

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All patents are published in the public domain and anyone can access and read them.

When did patents become available to the public?
The American Inventor’s Protection Act of 1999 required that all plant patent and utility patent applications be published. The purpose of this provision was to provide inventors with a direct means of defending their patents. Under this law, patent infringing parties are considered to have notice of the existing patent, making claims easier for inventors.

How can I view the patents?
Full text and diagrams of patented inventions are available online at the US Patent and Trademark Office. From this site you can search for current patents or “PatFT.” You will need the TIFF viewer program to read the patents, which is is also available on the website.

How can I view international patents?
International patents are published by one of three additional organizations: the World Intellectual Property Organization, European Patent Office or the Australian Patent Office. These organizations have their individual websites which you can find simply by searching these names online.

How can I print patents?
Downloadable patents can be obtained from Google Patents. This website provides a user friendly search option and contains the full patent application including drawings of the inventions. Google Patents was created in association with the United States Patent Office, so only US Patents are available for download.

I am an inventor, how can I prevent my patent from being published?
You can request that your patent application not be published when you submit your application. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. First, all applications will be made public after 18 months, so your application will only be held in confidence for 18 months after your application is received. Also, you cannot request the 18-month hold if you are also applying for a foreign patent.

If you have any questions about the patenting process, contact a patent attorney who can assist you from start to finish with your patent application.

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