Patent databases

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Patent information

You can find complete patent publications with text and drawings in patent databases. Do you want to know if your invention is new? Then use patent dababases.

Patent databases

In patent databases, you can search for your own invention, but you can also obtain ideas from other people's inventions. You can also find answers to questions such as:

  • Does anyone have a (partial) solution to my problem?
  • Are there any suitable collaboration partners?
  • Would anyone like to licence my invention?
  • Is my competitor working on something new and if so, in what field?
  • Are there many inventions being patented in my field and by whom?


The espacenet database is a search system that allows you access to a large proportion of the global patent literature free of charge. You will find approximately 80 million patents from around the world. All Dutch patents from 1912 onwards can be found in espacenet.


The International Patent Classification (IPC) provides for a hierarchical system of language independent symbols for the classification of patents according to the different areas of technology to which they pertain. It works like a tree diagram. The highest hierarchical level consists of eight sections, where each section contains a major technical field. The letters A to H and Y indicate the sections. Sections are divided into classes, which in turn are sub-divided into sub-classes.

Cooperative Patent Classification

The Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) effort is a joint partnership between the USPTO and the EPO where the Offices agreed to harmonize their existing classification systems (ECLA and USPC, respectively) and migrate towards a common classification scheme. This is a strategic decision by both offices and is seen as an important step towards advanced harmonization efforts currently being undertaken through the IP5’s Common Hybrid Classification (CHC) project.
On 1 January 2013, the EPO started classifying its documentation using the CPC instead of ECLA. Following a transition period, from 2015 onwards the USPTO will also classify using the CPC instead of the USPC. Both the EPO and the USPTO will continue to classify in the IPC. The CPC is subject to ongoing revision by both offices, and documents are reclassified accordingly.

Connection with IPC

The scheme was initially based on the former European classification system (ECLA), which was an extension of the IPC while keeping all its properties (hierarchy, titles, expandability). However, while the IPC has 70.000 entries and ECLA 160.000, the CPC has more than 250.000, making it much more precise.

More information

For more information on patent databases and their contents, please consult the overview.

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