Patents at The Lens


sunflowers by marco magrini
sunflowers by marco magrini

Searching patent information is a challenge for most librarians on a good day whether it is on Google Patents, ESPACEnet, or the USPTO. A rather new site, Lens, has entered the landscape. Lens is a self-described “open public resource for innovation cartography.” Aside from the rather quirky byline on the site’s home page, this open resource searches “nearly all of the patent documents in the world as open, annotatable digital public goods that are integrated with scholarly and technical literature along with regulatory and business data” (

The information for Lens comes from the following datasets (

  • The European Patent Office’s DocDB bibliographic data from 1907 – present: 81+ Million documents from nearly 100 jurisdictions.
  • USPTO Applications from 2001 – present with full text and images.
  • USPTO Grants from 1976 – present with full text and images.
  • USPTO Assignments (14+ Million).
  • European Patent Office (EP) Grants from 1980 – present with full text and images.
  • WIPO PCT Applications from 1978 – present with full text and images.
  • Australian Patent Full Text from IP Australia

The site also has a Patent Sequence Database, called PatSeq, that can search DNA or protein sequences that have been used in patents or patent applications.

The website’s home page has a single search box and also an advanced search option comprised of a text-based query box, a dates published or filed box, a jurisdictions box, and a document type box. Searches can be limited to full text, one document per family, stemming and one of eight languages.

The results page provides the date the record was published, the patent family, how many times the patent has been cited by other patents, if it is available in full text and a link to individual records. Each record provides a full summary and links to the full text and the PDF if available, citations (cited and citing), patent family information, and legal notes. The site also has a side bar with a simple notes field that the user can place notes that apply to a particular document. These notes can be saved if the user creates a free account with Lens and saves the notes.

The site is hosted by two primary partners: Cambia, a non-governmental organization and Queensland University of Technology, both out of Australia. The site has also been supported by the National Information and Communication Technology Australia (NICTA), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, USPTO, the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation, the Lemelson Foundation and Qualcomm.

I found the site easy to use, transparent and full of addition features that would be another useful tool for the occasional to serious patent searcher.

Greg Nelson, Chemical & Life Science Librarian, Brigham Young University,

We welcome your comments and suggestions. If you have a resource that you would like to see highlighted please leave us a comment.


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