The Library has a collection of older patents which can be looked up on request.

The documents that deal with patents are listed in BEAST catalog. The Library can provide basic help in searching for patents, but does not claim to be an authority in this field. Here is a selection databases (free or licensed to EPFL) where you can find patents of different nationalities.

A patent is a title of intellectual property issued by the State for an invention of a technical nature. To be patentable in Switzerland, an invention must be new, not derive in an obvious manner from the highest technical level of a skilled person and be industrially applicable. A patent confers the right on the holder to prohibit any third party from using an invention for economic purposes for a certain period of time. In return, the applicant must disclose his invention in detail and make it public.

Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI) 2015, Glossary. [Accessed in March 2015]

A patent is a document containing different information: name of the applicant, the inventor of the patent, technical description, legal claims, priority filing, priority date, filing date, the designated States, the legal situation, citations and references (if required), bibliographic data, the codes for the document type and country.

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), p. 10 of the document WIPO Guide to Using Patent Information – 2013 Edition [Accessed in March 2015]

The publication number is the number assigned to a patent application on publication. Publication numbers are generally made up of a country code (2 letters) and a serial number (variable, 1 to 12 digits), for example: DE202004009768. For more information on publication numbers, see the pages of the European Patent Office.

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), p. 6 of the document Finding TECHNOLOGY using PATENTS – An Introduction – 2013 Edition [Accessed in March 2015]

Several tools are available at EPFL for simple or complex patent searches. Here are the more important ones with their pros and cons.


Espacenet is a free online service offered by the European Patent Office. It provides access to more than 70 million patents worldwide, containing information on inventions and technical evolution from 1836 to the present day. The full text is frequently directly available, but when that is not the case the references contained in Espacenet generally allow one to find the original document from other sources.

  • Advantages : Free / Very extensive
  • Disadvantages : Export of useless references for bibliographic management / Some limits on dowloading patents


Scifinder provides access to the CAPlus database of the Chemical Abstracts Service. This database aims at full coverage of the field of chemistry, and therefore contains numerous references to patents worldwide.

  • Advantages : Natural language searching / Research on compounds and on chemical reactions
  • Disadvantages : Limited number of users at any one time / Limited to chemistry and to related fields

Google Patents

Google is of course also interested in the information contained in patents. Its Google Patents tool allows one to search in the American patents (from 1790 on) and European patents (from 1978 on).

  • Advantages : Free / Easy and efficient searching
  • Disadvantages : Relatively small database / Still in the test phase (beta version)


The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is the United Nations institution devoted to the use of intellectual property (patents, copyright, trademarks, industrial designs and models etc.) at the service of innovation and creativity. Its Patentscope search tool allows one to search among 2 million international patents (11 million documents including the requirements of national offices).

  • Advantages : Free / Access to requirements of PCT international patents (Patent Cooperation Treaty)
  • Disadvantages : Small database /  Confusing presentation of results / A lot of information provided = we no longer know which is the patent in the end

For more information on filing patents, or for more in-depth searching, you would have to look up the following resources. If your search requires a specific and definitive response, we would particularly recommend enquiring of the Transfer Technology Office at EPFL or the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property.

  • EPFL Transfer Technology Office

    At EPFL, the Transfer Technology Office (TTO) is responsible for the valuation of intellectual property. In this context it engages inter alia in the evaluation of new inventions at EPFL and in filing patents.


  • Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property

    The Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI) is the official authority for the registration of patents, trademarks and designs in Switzerland and the competence centre of the Swiss Confederation for all matters pertaining to intellectual property. It also conducts research on trademarks and on patent information.



The main bodies in Switzerland are:

Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IFPI). In Switzerland.

Federal Act on Copyright and Related Rights

ProLitteris: Swiss copyright society for literature and visual arts


The main bodies in Europe are:

Deutsches Patentamt

Espacenet. Databases of various European offices, comprising bibliographic information and patents (PDF files). They are searchable on various national servers. Searchable: EP, PCT and WIPO.

European Patent Office (EPO) = Office européen des brevets (OEB)

Institut national de la propriété industrielle (INPI) .

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Helpdesk / IPR Helpdesk – Intellectual Property

Patent Information on the Internet / European Patent Office

UK Intellectual Property Office


The main international bodies are:

Canadian patents / Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO); Office de la propriété intellectuelle du Canada (OPIC)

Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) = Office de la propriété intellectuelle du Canada (OPIC)

• Chemical abstracts — American Chemical Society (ACS)

Derwent Innovations Index. On Web of Knowledge. Information on patents with links to the full text.

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Helpdesk / IPR Helpdesk – Intellectual Property

International Patent Classification (IPC) = Classification internationale des brevets (CIB) / World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO); Organisation mondiale de la propriété intellectuelle (OMPI)

Japanese Patent Office

SciFinder: Chemical Abstracts and other databases. Web and software access to Chemical Abstracts (bibliographic notices), CAS Registry (> 26 million chemical compounds), CASREACT (> 3.5 million reactions), Chemcats (suppliers’ catalogues), Chemlist (toxicological and environmental data) and Medline.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

U.S. Patents / United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

U.S. Trademark Database / United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

US Patent Class Definitions / United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) = Office mondial de la propriété intellectuelle (OMPI)


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