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Patents / Standards

Did you know that smartphones contain between 10-20,000 patents?

So, what is a patent?

A patent is a legal document which protects an invention. It contains detailed technical specifications which can be used by an expert to check the invention works. Much of this information is not published in any other source. Therefore patents are very useful sources of information.

More about patents: from the UK Intellectual Property Office and the British Library

Created by Jessica Duensing for

Searching for patents

The Espacenet database is a really good source for patent documents. It has a much broader coverage than Google Patent search which is limited to US published patents. 

Espacenet search tips.

You can search Espacenet using phrases, wildcards and logic:

phrase searching e.g. "bicycle saddle"

* wildcard = multiple characters e.g. electr* finds electric, electrical, electronic, electromagnetic

? wildcard = one character e.g. bell? finds bell, bells

# wildcard = single character e.g. spoo# finds spook, spool, spoon

logic e.g. (bicycle or cycle) and saddle

Espacenet website:

Espacenet tutorial:

What are standards?

Standards are all around us, even if we are not always aware of them. One example of a widely-used standard is the A4 size for a sheet of paper defined by the ISO 216 standard.

Standards are agreed-upon codes of best practice containing technical specifications and guidelines. They can be used to ensure that the operation or composition of a product or process is consistent, reliable and safe.  Standards provide a quality benchmark.

Different types of organizations produce standards.  These can be government departments such as the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, national agencies such as the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency or trade associations such as the Financial Conduct Authority.  The British Standards Institution (BSI) is the UK’s National Standards Body which brings together representatives from a range or organizations to develop formal standards to benefit UK businesses and consumers. 

Different countries may have their own organizations for creating and regulating standards. For example, France has the Association Française de Normalisation (AFNOR), Germany has the Deutsches Institut für Normung (DIN) and America has the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).  European countries can benefit from the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) which brings together the National Standardization Bodies of 33 European countries.

There are also international standards which are regulated by the International Organization for Standards (ISO). The ISO is made up of 163 member countries and helps to harmonize the compatibility and technical specifications of components, products and services to enhance international trade.

Standards available from Loughborough

We have full text access to all current standards from:

  • ASTM - American Society for Testing & Materials
  • BSI – British Standards Institute, for BS & EN codes select Institutional login, enter Athens password
  • IEEE - Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers  
  • OHSIS – Occupational Health and Safety Information Service
  • SAE – Society of Automotive Engineers
  • SPIE - International Society for Optics and Photonics

Many international standards (ISO) and European standards, Eurocodes (EN) including some from the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) also have BSI equivalents and are available online too.  

To support teaching and research, we also purchase a small number of individual standards from other organisations, e.g. American Planning Association, Construction Specifications Institute etc. These are usually available in hard-copy and you can find their shelfmark on the Library’s Catalogue.  Search for ‘standard’ in the title and limit the material type to ‘books’. If you need a particular standard for your research, dissertation, or to support your teaching, please contact your Academic Librarian.

Standards Help

Helpful information and videos have been put together by a few of the organizations: