Many people want to look up inventions patented by relatives, ancestors, famous people or companies. You can do this on the USPTO web site, provided that the patent was issued in 1976 or later. Remember that if a person invented something while working at a company or university, his or her name will be listed as the INVENTOR, while the ASSIGNEE is usually the company or university.
Patents Issued AFTER 1976
Go to the USPTO's online database.
- Choose the Issued Patents (as opposed to Published Applications) Quick Search.
- In the right pull-down field menu, select "Assignee Name" if searching for company name or "Inventor Name" if searching for Inventor name.
- Type in the name of the inventor or company, keeping in mind that you might need to try several times. Remember, your uncle Joe Brown might be listed as Joe Brown, Joseph Brown, Joseph A. Brown, J.A. Brown, etc. You may even need to try Browne -- name spellings change over time.
- In the bottom pull-down menu for year range, select all years or 1976 to present.
- Click on Search.
- Too many hits? Try narrowing your search by adding a second search term in the second pull down menu.
- When you open the patent you have selected, you will see the full text of the patent. To see the images, click on the "images" link.
Patents Issued BEFORE 1976
Your best bet is to go to the D.H. Hill Library and consult the following volumes:
- 1790-1872: There are no cumulated indexes by inventor name or assignee. If you have a rough idea of the timeline and the nature of the invention, you can check the Subject-Matter Index of Patents for Inventions Issued by the United States Patent Office. This is an alphabetical index of inventions only. For each invention the name of the inventor, his residence, the date of issuance and the patent number is given.
- 1846-1925: Check the Annual Reports of the Commissioner of Patents
- 1926-1975: Check the Index of Patents Issued from the United States Patent Office