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Patents & Technology Transfer: Patent Information & Classification

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Characteristics of Patent Documents


Description and Drawings

The description gives the background to the invention (what was known before the invention, i.e., the "prior art"), and defines the difference between the pre-existent technology and what the invention contributes to technology development. Information includes:

  • Title of the invention 
  • Statement of patent history 
  • Field of the invention
  • Summary of the invention in broad terms
  • Drawings and brief description of the drawings 
  • Detailed description of the invention



Claims are written statements of what the inventor asserts is his or her exclusive property. They determine the scope of patent protection and define legal boundaries of the invention.



Many patent documents contain an abstract summarizing the contents of the document.



Patent documents have "classification symbols" to facilitate finding and extracting relevant information from them. Although several classification systems exist, today the International Patent Classification (IPC), which was established by an intergovernmental agreement concluded more than 30 years ago and administered by WIPO, is the most widely applied by all the major industrial property offices.



Patent dates reveal the age of an invention and whether they are still under legal protection. Patent documents may list:

  • date of application
  • priority date
  • date of grant


Inventor, Applicant, Owner

Most patent documents indicate the name and address of at least one or two of the following:

  • inventor
  • applicant
  • patentee (the owner)


Reused with permission from UOttawa Library's Patents guide.

Patent Classification Systems

To allow for easier searching and organization, patents are classified according to a classification system. This groups patents together with similar technical areas, such as chemistry or mechanical engineering.

  • Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC)
    The Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) effort is a joint partnership between the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the European Patent Office (EPO) where the Offices have agreed to harmonize their existing classification systems (European Classification (ECLA) and United States Patent Classification (USPC) respectively) and migrate towards a common classification scheme.