Our research service

We offer a range of paid services including; public availability date service, priced research and projects and training.

Through these services the expertise and experience of our specialists can be used to:   

  • Help inventors and designers to check on their ideas’ novelty when considering applying for a patent, registered design, or registered trade mark
  • Help entrepreneurs to find the information they need to develop a business idea
  • Support legal professionals in the patent litigation process
  • Help service providers to deliver more effective innovation support   

Public Availability Date Service

A service chiefly for patent legal professionals. We will provide written confirmation of the date that an item was made available from the British Library. These are usually used as evidence in litigation. We will check the date on which the an item was first made available to British Library users either in our Reading Rooms or through our Document Supply Service and deliver a letter confirming this with a copy of the relevant date stamp.    

We are able to employ the services of a Notary Public if we are required to supply a notarised letter in a form to meet the requirements of legal proceedings both in the UK and overseas.   


The service is charged at a rate of £90 per hour of staff time, with a minimum price of £90.  If you require the services of a Notary Public, their fee and expenses will be added to the cost. VAT is charged for customers in the EU.   

Please note: The Public Availability Date of an item at the British Library may be taken as a date by which the item was definitely available to the public. However, we cannot guarantee that any item was not publicly available elsewhere in the world by an earlier date.  Publishers in the UK are required by law to deposit copies of all their publications at the British Library: they generally do so as soon as they have copies ready to deliver. However, items originally published in other countries have to be purchased by the British Library, which may happen sometime after their date of publication. Also we cannot provide reliable public availability dates for electronically-published items. For these, you will have to contact the publishers. 

Priced research   

When undertaking a priced information search, we will use those sources we judge most likely to contain the information required. We have access to a range of online databases, in addition to all the sources held in the British Library’s collections.   

We undertake searches in the following fields:   

Patent Searches

If you have an invention, and are considering applying for a patent, you will need to search in international databases to see what similar patents (if any) already exist. We can carry out a search and compile a list of potentially relevant patents. We can also search in Web-based sources for relevant prior art in non-patent literature. N.B. We do not advise you on whether your invention can be patented. For that, you will need to engage the services of a patent attorney.    

Trademark and Registered Design Searches

If you have devised a logo or trade-name, or an original design, we can search through the databases to see if anything similar has already been registered or is already in use by another company.   

Business mailing lists

We can supply you with lists of companies by activity, geographical location and/or size. We use the databases available in the Business & IP Centre, and we are restricted to a maximum of 250 companies on your list.    

Market information

Using the resources in the Centre, we can provide a report listing relevant sources on a particular market. This list can include: market reports that we have assessed for relevance; titles from our collection of trade journal literature; details of trade associations. N.B. due to licensing restrictions, we cannot quote extensively from market reports in our collections: you have to visit the Business & IP Centre to see these yourself.   


  • Our pricing is based on the staff time spent on performing a search, plus any costs incurred in using priced online databases. Staff time is charged for at £90 per hour. We will agree with you a maximum price before we start work on a search. 
  • Patent searches may involve variable online costs, typically around £50. 
  • Trademark and Registered Design searches have no online costs. 
  • Business mailing lists have online costs of £0.10 for each company on the mailing list. 
  • VAT is charged at 20% for customers in the EU.     

Projects and Training 

We have a wealth of knowledge and experience in research skills, intellectual property and enterprise and innovation support.  There are many ways in which you can put this to use for your organisation either to inform business and policy decisions or to enable you and your colleagues to deliver more effective services.     


The purpose of our bespoke training is to help you develop your and enable you to carry out your own research more effectively.  Our trainers have many years of experience of delivering personalised training to clients, for example:   

  • The ‘IP Masterclass’ an in-depth training programme delivered jointly with the IPO and Coventry University Enterprises 
  • Weekly Virtual Classroom mediated online training for European patent libraries, funded by the European Patent Office (2011)
  • Training on information usage as part of Praxis Unico training programme for business development managers in higher education (2005-2011)   


These involve more in-depth work incorporating a combination of desk and primary research, and the transfer of the knowledge gained by the BL in the delivery of other projects and services. We are happy to deliver these as a sole provider or in partnership with other organisations and services. Some examples of recent activities:   

The ‘Business Information Resources Landscape and Feasibility Study’ (PDF format).  Commissioned by JISC.  An 8 month nationwide study into how businesses use information.  The study involved workshops, interviews and online surveys as well as a review of international best practice

The Interreg IVB NWE Open Innovation Project.   We are a partner in this EU-funded transnational consortium and our specific role is delivering annual showcase events and managing content on a dedicated website.   


Projects and training events and services are costed on an individual basis and we will supply a fully-costed proposal in each instance.   

Terms and conditions 

If you wish to avail of any of the above services contact us via our online form or by telephone on +44 (0)20 7412 7901


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