Searching for patents is a basic tool of competitive intelligence and something a competitive intelligence analyst will do on a routine basis. Patent information is not as useful as some might think, however. Yes, patents can give you an indication of coming products, but given the lengthy timelines involved for filing, publishing and acting on patents, more often than not they are clues about a company's general thinking about products.
Most serious patents will need to be filed in the US and perhaps Europe. So monitoring those two databases alone will catch the majority of patents that are worth monitoring. Below we include databases with a slightly broader focus, for the sake of completeness:
- US Patent & Trademark Office: US patent search.
- WIPO: Worldwide patent search from WIPO.
- PatentLens: Worldwide patent search.
- FreePatentsOnline: worldwide patent search with alerts service.
- European Patent Office: European patent search. Bulk data here.
- European Patent Foundation: European patents, with annotation features.
- German Patent Office.
- Government of India: Indian patent search.
- Singapore Patent Office: Asian patent search.
We will not analyse these in detail because there are already countless lists online of patent websites; above are the ones we use regularly. We would also recommend the excellent Intellogist map showing which patent websites cover which countries.