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Research Guides

Introduction to Patents and Patent Searching

This guide is designed to introduce you to patent searching. Basic patent information as well as useful resources are included to help get you started.

Sections of a Patent

Note: The "specification" usually refers to the whole document including the claims

Cover Page

  • Prepared by the patent office except for the abstract, which the inventor prepares


  • A clear and concise written description of the invention and its usefulness, including drawings
  • Must be so clear and complete that it will enable anyone with average skill in the technology to make or use the invention
  • Contents: 
    •  Title of the invention  
    • Statement of patent history  
    • Field of the invention 
    • Background  
    • Summary of the invention in broad terms 
    • Drawings  
    • Brief description of the drawings  
    • Detailed description of the invention


  • Define boundaries of patent protection
  • Written statement of what the inventor asserts is his or her exclusive property
  • Information specified as protected by the claims cannot be used freely (copied, manufactured or sold) by others until the patent expires
  • Information not protected by the claims can be used immediately by anyone

International agreed Number for the Identification of Data (INID)

Beside each item on a patent cover sheet, there is a number inside a square bracket. These numbers, the INID codes, are international standards that identify the type of element in a patent document for most countries in the world. Below are a select list of categories, for the complete list of the codes refer to  Appendix 1 in WIPO Standard ST.9.

[11] Patent Number

[12] Document Type

[21] Application Number

[22] Date of Patent Filing

[45] Date of Patent Publication/Issue

[51] International Patent Classification

[52] Domestic or National Classification

[54] Invention Title

[57] Abstract or Claim

[56] List of Prior Art Documents (aka References Cited)

[71] Name(s) of applicant(s)

[72] Name(s) of inventor(s)

[73] Name(s) of grantee(s), holder(s), assignee(s) or owners(s)