Patents

Pantents diagram

The British Library is the UK’s national patent library. We have a comprehensive collection of British and foreign patent documentation.

About the collection

Our collection was established in the mid 19th century as the library of the British Patent Office and we have been collecting patent specifications and associated documentation comprehensively since then. As well as British patent documents we have an extensive collection of patent specifications from more than 40 other countries and international authorities.  We also have indexes, abstracts, official journals, patent law reports and many other associated publications.   

The patents are held either in print, on microfiche and on compact disk.  Nowadays most national patent offices and international authorities such as the European Patent Office publish their specifications and other documents online.  This means we are adding very little material to our physical collections. Instead we try to direct researchers to the official patent publication websites which many patent offices make available.

We also have a collection of archival materials known asthe Woodcroft Collection which researchers investigating the development of the UK patent system, the history of invention and patent publication in Great Britain and history of the Patent Office Library will find of interest.

What is available online?

As well as official patent office websites, there are a few international patent searching resources which are freely available on the internet. These are described in our introductory search guide . However we strongly advise researchers new to the field to discuss their information needs with our patent information specialists before beginning an online patent search.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

The patent collection can be consulted in the Business & IP Centre reading room which is where our patent information specialists are based. They know the collection very well and are always happy to offer help and advice to researchers.

You will find detailed information on the patent documents we hold in our country specific collection lists which are available on request from the Business and IP Centre team.  
Most of the items in the collection are kept in reserve stores in London or at Boston Spa, so please remember to contact us before visiting to check availability and delivery times for any documents you want to look at. All the information you need on visiting the library and applying for a pass to use our reading rooms is here: St Pancras Reading Rooms. Please read it carefully before planning a visit.

If you want to make a patent search to test the novelty of an invention or if you want to find out how patents can help you protect and develop your business then then the British Library’s Business and IP Centre offers a range of services designed to help.

How to guides

Find early British patents

A guide on finding British patents from the period 1617-1899

How to get a Reader Pass if you are Under 18

How to apply for an under-18 Reader Pass