Top 3 Free Patent Search Databases – Latest Updates

It’s been about a year since I left the intellectual property field, and I know that patent search tools can change very quickly, with new updates usually added on a monthly or quarterly basis. I’m just starting to try to catch up on the latest patent search news, and one good place to start is by checking on the latest updates to three popular free patent search sites: EspacenetPATENTSCOPE, and Google Patents.  Here’s a quick overview on each site and a look at the latest new features:


Overview: Espacenet is a free patent database created by the European Patent Office (EPO), and allows users to search across bibliographic data (and in some cases, full text) for over 90 million patent documents from around the world.  Espacenet includes innovative features like image mosaics of patent drawings, machine translation of bibliographic data and full text (powered by EPO and Google), links to patent registers for the issuing patent office, and Global Dossier links (which includes patent file history papers for some patent documents from USPTO, EPO, JPO, KIPO, SIPO, WIPO, and CIPO).

Latest Updates: The latest news I was able to find for Espacenet was from November 2016, and the release notes describe the following updates:

  • Global Dossier service now includes access to patent file papers from the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) for applications published on or after October 1, 2015 and for Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) applications published on or after January 1, 1978.
  • Links to Global Dossier and links to the European Patent Register and available national registers have been separated.
  • Results lists can not be sorted by publication date.
  • The bibliographic and full-text coverage tables for Espacenet now use green coloring for rows to indicate changes in the data.
Global Dossier link now available for a Canadian patent application.


Overview: PATENTSCOPE is a free patent search site maintained by the World Intellectual Property Organization, and it allows users to search across 59 million patent documents, including 3.1 million PCT applications.  PATENTSCOPE includes unique features like the Cross-Lingual Expansion search form (which uses machine translation to automatically expand a search query), machine translation options of patent documents through WIPO Translate (or other machine translation services), and a chart of national phase information for granted PCT applications.

Latest Updates: According to PATENTSCOPE News Archive, recent updates to the database include:

  • Chemical structure search option for “PCT applications in English and German (from 1978), and the national collection of the U.S. (from 1979)”.  Users must first log in to use this feature.
  • Updates to WIPO Translate, which now uses “cutting-edge neural machine translation technology to render highly technical patent documents into a second language in a style and syntax that more closely mirrors common usage.”  The technology is initially being used for translation of Korean, Chinese, and Japanese patent documents into English.
  • Global Dossier content is now available on PATENTSCOPE for Japanese, Canadian, and EPO patent applications, under the “Documents” tab.  Global Dossier content for US, AU, KR, and CN documents will be available in the near future.
PATENTSCOPE chemical structure editor (image from press release).

Google Patents

Overview:  Google Patents searches across 17 patent authorities, and users also have the option to search across non-patent literature from Google Scholar.  Google Patents includes many unique features, like automatic grouping of results by Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) codes, CPC codes added to non-patent literature through machine classification, and an option to search for related prior art for a single patent document.

 Latest Updates: The Google Blog’s latest news on Google Patents is from August 2016 and describes the addition of 11 patent authorities to the patent coverage. The Google Patents homepage also mentions new features including “boolean search, graphs, thumbnail grids and downloads.”   At the bottom of search results, I noticed new graphs and charts identifying top filing dates, assignees, inventors, and CPC codes for top 1000 results, which seems to be a new feature since 2015.

Graphs and charts under Google Patents search results, identifying top filing dates, assignees, inventors, and CPC codes.



My 5 Favorite Consumer Health Resources on MedlinePlus

MedlinePlus is, without a doubt, my favorite online consumer health resource.  MedlinePlus is the main consumer health portal created by the National Library of Medicine, and it has strict criteria to ensure that it only links to and publishes reliable, accessible, and high quality health information. The site offers a variety of tools for both the general public and healthcare professionals who work with the public, ranging from a medical encyclopedia to videos and multilingual patient information.

Homepage of MedinePlus.

Here’s a quick list of my features on MedlinePlus:

  • Health Topics – Currently over 1000 Health Topics pages are available on MedlinePlus, and they cover “symptoms, causes, treatment and prevention for over 1000 diseases, illnesses, health conditions and wellness issues.”  The Health Topics pages include a basic summary about the health condition, followed by an organized list of links to relevant websites related to the condition.  Navigate through the list of links using a menu at the top of the page, with sections on latest news, diagnosis and tests, treatment, genetics, health check tools, clinical trials (links to, journal articles (links to PubMed), find an expert, patient handouts, and much more.  The Health Topics pages also link to information on the health topic in multiple languages and related medical encyclopedia articles.
Health Topics page on skin cancer from MedlinePlus.
  • Drugs and Supplements – Browse lists of generic or brand-name drugs and medical supplements to find information on “side effects, dosage, special precautions, and more.”  The pages on individual drugs and supplements include all information on one page (which can be easily printed), in consumer-friendly language.
  • Medical Encyclopedia – Browse through over 4,000 articles from the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia on a broad variety of “diseases, tests, symptoms, injuries, and surgeries.”  The medical encyclopedia pages include links to other related encyclopedia articles and health topics, as well as medical photographs and illustrations.
  • Tutorials on Understanding Medical Words and Evaluating Health Information – The Videos and Tools section of MedlinePlus includes many useful links to health videos, health check tools, and games, but I want to highlight two tutorials available on MedlinePlus which tackle topics important to most people who aren’t healthcare professionals.  The “Understanding Medical Words” tutorial can be used to gain a better understanding of medical terminology and improve communication between patients and doctors, while the “Evaluating Health Information” tutorial teaches viewers how to judge the reliability of information found on health-related websites.
Interactive tutorial “Understanding Medical Words.”

MedlinePlus has a number of additional features, like the latest health news and links to organizations and directories.  The site is an indispensable resource for the general public and any professional who provides health information to the public, due to its reliability, ease of searching, and wide variety of topics.

Learning Goals!

My main goal in starting this blog is to chronicle my continuing education efforts, especially my work learning about consumer health, data analysis and visualization.  Here’s a quick list of my current learning goals:

  • Earn the Consumer Health Information Specialization (CHIS) from the Medical Library Association.
  • Learn to use a variety of data visualization and analysis software, such as Tableau.
  • Take free data visualization/big data online courses.
  • Learn how to code and create visualizations with R.

I’ve started working towards the CHIS by taking free online courses available through the National Network of Libraries of Medicine. Learn about free upcoming classes under the Professional Development section of their website.