General information


What are patents?

A patent is a legal document that gives an inventor the exclusive right to make, use, and sell their invention for a certain period of time. In exchange for this exclusive right, the inventor must publicly disclose the details of their invention in the patent application, which is published and made available to the public.

A patent provides legal protection for an invention, preventing others from making, using, or selling the same invention without the inventor’s permission. This can help the inventor to commercialise their invention and earn a return on their investment in research and development.

Patent data refers to information (in and) about patents, including the inventor’s name, the patent’s title and abstract, and details of the invention. This data can be used to track trends in innovation, identify areas of technological development, and inform business and policy decisions.

Patent Search

When you want to search for patents, you first have to identify relevant databases. Some comment examples would be Patenscope (WIPO) or Espacenet (EPO). IP Monitor can help you identify the most relevant databases.

For example, we can start a search in Patentscope (WIPO) by entering a keyword, a name, or the registered patent/case number and can further refine the search by using quotation marks and/or parentheses. For example, we found 19,510 cases when searching for “biodegradable plastic bag”. By enclosing the keywords in quotation marks we have limited the search to this specific combination only. To find patents that incorporate sustainable and ecological principles, use terms such as “green”, “sustainable”, “recycling”, “renewable energy”, and “green manufacturing”. Use classification codes (IPC or CPC) to search for green patents in a specific technology area. The most common classification codes for green patents are the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) categories Y02 and Y04.

After running your search, review the results to identify relevant patents and use more filters provided by the database to narrow down your results (by date, inventor, assignee, and other criteria). When you identify relevant patents, analyse them (Espacenet, Lens, Clarivate Analytics) to gain insights into the technology, market trends, and competitive landscape. Use this information to inform your own research and development efforts.

If you’re having trouble finding green patents on your own, you can consider using a patent search service. These services use advanced search tools and databases to provide you with a comprehensive list of green patents that match your search criteria. Some of these services are not free of charge and there is a cost (a fee) associated with them.

Additional and alternative forms of patents

SPC (Supplementary protection certificate)

A Supplementary protection certificate is a type of intellectual property right that extends the protection provided by a patent for a medicinal or plant protection product. They are governed by European Union (EU) regulations and are available in certain EU member states. The certificate is granted by national patent offices and provides an additional period of protection (up to 5 years) beyond the expiration of the corresponding patent, to compensate for the time required to obtain regulatory approval to market the product.

In patent data, information about SPCs may be included in the patent database alongside information about the underlying patent, allowing researchers to track the extension of patent protection for certain products.

Utility models (Petty patent, Innovation Patent, Short-term patent)

A utility model is a form of intellectual property protection that is similar to a patent but with a shorter duration and less stringent criteria for eligibility. It is intended to encourage innovation by providing a more accessible and streamlined route to intellectual property protection for simple or less complex inventions. Utility models are sometimes referred to as “petty patents” or “innovation patents” and provide protection for specific technical features or aspects of an invention rather than the entire invention as a whole.

Patent Classification

IPC (International Patent Classification)

The “International Patent Classification” system was established by WIPO in 1971 and is used by patent offices around the world to classify patent documents according to the field of technology to which they relate. The system is organised into eight sections, each covering a broad area of technology, such as “human necessities”, “chemistry and metallurgy”, and “transportation”.

CPC (Cooperative Patent Classification)

“Cooperative Patent Classification” is a joint project between the EPO (European Patent Office) and USPTO (US Patent and Trademark Office) launched in 2010. Like the IPC, the CPC is a hierarchical system for classifying patent documents according to the field of technology to which they relate. The CPC is more detailed and specific than the IPC, with more than 250,000 classification symbols covering over 250,000 technical concepts.