Patents can be considered as a contract between society and an inventor, whereby the inventor receives legal protection for an invention while the public gets full disclosure of what the invention is and how it works. The patent system is intended to stimulate economic growth by providing incentives to inventors while also providing critical technological information to others in society. This guide outlines the patents held in the State Library and gives some online access points for patents not held and other information about patents.
Some Australian examples:
The GB Esp@cenet service was effectively replaced from 2 April 2012 by Worldwide Espacenet which contains a much larger collection of GB patent specifications(back to 1850’s). It provides access to 70 million other patent documents and offers more comprehensive, up to date search functionality.
To conduct a general search for only British documents please insert GB into the publication number field of Espacenet Advanced Patent Search and either the year or publication date into the publication date field.
Ipsum - Online Patent Information and Document Inspection Service lets you check the status and access information on UK patent applications free. You can also get copies of some documents from the open part of the file.
AusPat now provides full text searching of Australian patent records since 1904; records prior to 1920 can only be accessed through searching application number &/or full specifications as no other data was captured during that era - relevant details can be traced via the Australian official journal of patents. Annual index, 1904 - 1920.
The Back-capture project converted published patent specifications from 1904 to 2008 converting them to a consistent, digital & text searchable format. Since 1904 a number of mediums have been used to record & store specifications: Books(1904-77), Microfiche (1978-98) & CD (1999-2008); AU B documents from 1986 and all documents from 1998 are bookmarked so that a text based search can be conducted on the whole patent specification, or individual elements such as the abstract or claims only. These records are available in high quality Optical Character Recognition (OCR) providing accuracy levels of between 99.4 – 99.6%; See the User guide and FAQ.
South Australian colonial patents were enacted as Private Acts of Parliament prior to the South Australian Patent Act of 1859. For example Private Act No.1 of 1848, probably the first patent taken out in Australia, was granted to Andrew John Murray of Adelaide for 'An improved windlass'. We hold some others in the sets Specifications of letters of registration of patents for inventions filed and recorded in the office of the Registrar-General of South Australia. We also have Patent index, 1886 to 1896 (inclusive) : name and subject-matter but not the corresponding patents.
State Records of South Australia retain correspondence received by the Chief Secretary's Office relating to nineteenth century patents and these can be searched using the State Records of South Australia (SRSA) GRG 24/8 indexes. Relevant correspondence will be listed on the "P" pages under a heading "Patents" or "Patent Act". The actual letters, which are contained in series GRG 24/6, may then be ordered for viewing by citing the date and number of letter found in the index, e.g. file 168 of 1876. This can be written as SRSA GRG 24/6/1876/168.
The South Australian Patents Act of 1877 repealed earlier Acts and provided for the appointment of a Commissioner for Patents and the establishment of a Patent Office. South Australian patents issued after 1877 under this Act are now held by National Archives of Australia.
We also hold incomplete sets of colonial patents from Victoria ([State specifications]/ Dept. of Patents, Commonwealth of Australia [1854 - 1888]), Abstracts of specifications of patents applied for, from 1854 to 1866; Patents and patentees. Indexes for the year ... [1867-1893]), Queensland (Letters of registration granted for inventions : ... with abridgments of specifications in each case, compiled from the original documents in the Office of the Registrar; of Patents, Brisbane / by William T. Blakeney, Registrar of Patents, Queensland [1860 - 1869]; Patents designs and trade marks act, rules [1884-1897]) and New South Wales ( Letters of registration of inventions / New South Wales [1855-1901]; Index to New South Wales letters of registration of inventions from 1854 to 31st July, 1887; Index to New South Wales letters patent : registered from 1st. August, 1887, to 31st. December, 1891; Index to New South Wales letters patent registered during the year ... : and an index to assignments and licenses registered during the same period [1892 -1894 ]).
Those Australian and colonial patents which were also afforded U.S. protection can now be accessed more readily from the USPTO files scanned and indexed for Internet access at Google Patent Search. This covers the entire collection of patents made available by the USPTO - from patents issued in the 1790s through those issued in the middle of 2006. It doesn't currently include patent applications, international patents, or U.S. patents issued over the last few months, but intends expanding coverage in the future.
Usually the most efficient way to search the post 1980s patent literature is via commercial online databases. For example Derwent World Patents Index provides searchable abstracts from 47 patent-issuing authorities worldwide, including Australian patents from 1983.
There are an increasing number of Internet sites offering patent information. These are briefly described in this guide. It is a good idea to search the free internet sites before committing yourself to an expensive search with the commercial online services.