Patents

Guide to finding patents, based on the collections of the State Library of Victoria

Australian patents 1904 +

Australian patent registrations began on 1st June 1904, after Federation. Prior to this, each Australian colony had its own system of registration (See separate links in this guide).

Finding Australian patents

Are you searching for a patent registered in Australia ?

Do you know?

  • number of patent
  • date of patent
  • name of inventor
  • nature of invention

If you have some or all of these details , search IP Australia's online AusPat database. It includes Australian patents from 1904 to current patents.

Steps to find and request Australian patents:

1. Search the AusPat database to find the full specification of the patent. Many but not all patents are on AusPat.

2. If you cannot find the patent on AusPat, search the print or microfiche indexes to find the patent number and year, or ask a librarian for help. The State Library  holds print and microfiche copies of Australian patents from 1904 up to 1999.  A librarian can check AusPat or patent indexes up to 2011 to find the patent number and the year.

3. Once you have the patent number and year, ask a librarian to request the print or microfiche copy.

Australian patents have complex numbering sequences that changed over the years, and the same patent number will have been allocated to different patents, by different inventors, in different date cycles. To retrieve printed patents, it is necessary to identify both a patent's number and its year. See the Australian Patent Number Sequences box on this page.

Australian patents - AusPat online database

AusPat

Online copies of patents available from AusPat database.

AusPat has number, name & subject indexes 1904 onwards

  • Patent records back to 1904
  • Standard Patent Applications filed from 1979
  • Petty Patent Applications filed from 1979
  • Innovation patents filed from 24 May 2001
  • Note that prior to 1920, need to search by application number and/or full specification search

The AusPat database also includes an Application Number to Publication/Serial (accepted/granted patent) Number Concordance, from Application Number 25558/35 to Serial (accepted/granted) Number 100001, to the present.

Searching AusPat

  • Search from 1904 to current
  • Keyword search the full text of Australian patents (using Structured Search)
  • Search names of inventors and applicants
  • Search titles of patents
  • Search application and granted (serial) numbers
  • Search subjects using class numbers (these indicate the subject of each patent)
  • From 1978 Australia has used the International Patent Classification System (IPC) system (each IPC code or codes allocated to a patent indicates the subject and content of that patent)
  • AusPat data coverage is listed on the IP Australia web site

Some Search options on the Auspat database

Click on this link to search additional IP Australia online patents databases.

AusPat database search tip – using the “Structured Search” option, search in the “Full Specification” field, using Boolean operators. For example – “jespersen AND fires” retrieves the full text of Jespersen’s 1904 accepted Australian patent specification for an “Appliance for extinguishing fires”.

NOTE that to search the "Full Specification" field, you need to check the "Include Full Text Search" check box, which can be found above the first search term in the "Structured Search" screen. Once this has been checked, the full text fields in the drop down list will be able to be selected.

NOTE also that if you do not check the "Include Full Text Search" check box, the system will default to searching the bibliographic data only. The bibliographic data includes application and publication/serial numbers, names of inventor and applicant, dates, IPC marks, and application and publication information.

AusPat patent codes

Full text Australian patents available in AusPat can be coded as AU-A, AU-B and AU-C. AU-A refers to an unexamined patent application: AU-B refers to an examined and accepted patent; AU-C refers to amended AU-B patent.

Tip for finding a pre-1920 patent number:

A library patron has given us this suggestion for finding a pre-1920  patent number on AusPat:

"If you know the number of a pre-1920 Australian patent, you can easily find it by searching for the number in the format YYYYPPPPPP where YYYY is the year and PPPPPP is the patent number in six-digit form, e.g. patent number 6143 of 1917 becomes 1917006143. However, if you do not know the number, AusPat fails you.

But there is a way. Search the National Archives of Australia's RecordSearch and enter a keyword from the title (or a likely keyword), plus the word 'patent' (note that the patentee's name is not part of the NAA database). For instance, I know MacFarlane had a patent for winches. Search: patent winches. I might get a few likely hits. Go back to AusPat and search using the NAA control symbol, converting to the number format described above. You will find the patent".

Australian patents - print copies held at State Library Victoria

Print (Paper) copies of patents

Before requesting print  copies of Australian patents, search the AusPat database on the IP Australia website. It is free to search and has full specifications. Some early twentieth century patents may not be on AusPat. You can also search the National Archives of Australia website, as explained on this page.

If you cannot find a copy of the patent online, contact us at  Ask a librarian The State Library  holds print and microfiche copies of  Australian patents, 1904 to 1999. Staff can search the indexes to  identify the patent number  and request  the relevant patent from storage. Most of our  patents are in paper format, but microfiche copies of Australia patent - AU-A & AU-B series - filed by Application Number are held.

  • If asking a staff member to request a patent, please provide  patent application number and year if possible. This is essential for retrieval of the patents. If you don't know the patent number, staff can search the print/microfiche subject and name indexes or the AusPat database if you have the name of the inventor and the subject of the invention and a date range. Once staff have the patent number and year, they can find it on AusPat or request the print / microfiche patent from storage. 
  • If a patent is not held in the State Library, please contact  the National Archives of Australia (see the Other Resources box on this page).

Summary of State Library print patent holdings

Print copies of patents - 1904 to 1975

You need  date of application and patent number before staff can retrieve a patent for you. Go to the  Ask a librarian page to request  retrieval of the patent.

Specifications of inventions with notes of void applications - (YA 608 AU7S)  The State Library  holds Patent number 1, 1904 to 1975 under this title. New series commenced in 1935 with patent number 100,001 . See catalogue record for details.

Patent Specification - (YA 608 AU7PS) The State Library holds Patent number 112,600,1939/40 to No.496,937,1978, under this title, filed in publication (Granted) number order. Also held are Australian patents filed in Application number order, from Application No.64003 (1966) to Application No.78454 (1975).

Note that the patents for the whole period 1904 to 1975 are found under the same catalogue record, namely Specifications of inventions above. The two sequences, 1904 to 1939/40, and 1939/40 to 1978,  are listed on this catalogue record. 

Void Patents -Note - some patent applications  were not published. These are recorded  with the application number, and  the word "Void" for withdrawn, not granted and lapsed applications. Contact  IP Australia Sales Unit in Canberra  or the National Archives of Australia to find void applications.

Example of a Void Application (Number 9010 of 1907)

As well as paper copies of patents, the State Library has microfiche copies of later twentieth century patents:

Important - All accepted (granted) patents from December 1935 (25,500/35) were allocated an additional Publication (Serial) Number, commencing at 100,001.

Accepted (granted) patents from December 1935 onwards are filed by the Publication (Serial) Number or granted number.  Use the serial (granted) number when requesting a patent.

How to find the granted number of a patent?

The granted (serial) numbers are listed alongside the application numbers in the concordances published in the Australian official journal of patents, trademarks and designs,  usually in January or December of each year.  Several years of numbers are usually listed, as applications could take longer than one year to be granted.  More information is given about the journal on this page.

Requesting  print copies of patents

If you have the patent number and the year it was registered you can contact staff to order the appropriate volume of the print  patents as listed above. Staff need to request a print patent from the catalogue record, as these patents are held at the offsite store. 

Staff: Go to Specifications of inventions as listed above.  Use this catalogue record to request patents for the whole period, 1904 to 1975. The two date sequences, 1904 to 1939/40, and 1939/1940 to 1978,  are listed separately on the catalogue record. Type in the patent number and the year, and the date required

Copies not held in the Library

If copies are not held in the Library, either missing from the collection, or void (see "Void Patents" box on this page), these can be ordered from the Canberra office of the National Archives of Australia (see the Other Resources box on this page).

You can also search the AusPat IP Australia database as explained above.

Australian patents - print indexes

Print name & subject indexes 1904 onwards

Do some searches on the AusPat database before you turn to the print indexes. If you find the patent on AusPat, you don't need to search the print indexes, as AusPat has the full specifications.

If you  have only the name of a patentee, check the printed name indexes to verify the patent number and date. Staff can do this, if you  complete our online request form

Searching the catalogue for Australian patents indexes:

Use the subject heading Patents - Australia- indexes- periodicals  to find patents indexes.

Search by call number 608 AU7 to find a more comprehensive list of indexes covering early to late twentieth century.

Indexes to proceedings during ... of the Commonwealth Patent Office, with statistical tables

  • Annual volumes, and the title varies
  • Search by person or company names

 Print subject indexes 1904 onwards

If you know the nature of the invention, narrow down the possible year from the information that you have, and then use the appropriate volume or volumes of the subject indexes, to verify the patent number and date.

Indexes to proceedings during ... of the Commonwealth Patent Office, with statistical tables

  • annual volumes, and the title varies
  • subject Indexes include "Keyword Indexes" and "Classified Subject Group Indexes"
  • from 1904 up to 1978 Australia used its own classified subject groups of terms
  • from 1978 Australia has used the International Patent Classification (IPC) system

The indexes contain references to information in the Australian official journal of patents - for example, dates specifications received or accepted.

 

Concordance

Microfiche collection of Australian patents 1975 to 1999: use as a last resort. Try the AusPat database first: the patents should be there.

Australia Patent  AU-A & AU-B series.

The State Library holds microfiche copies of Australian patents. Use other sources before requesting these. The microfiche copies were sent to the State Library  by the Patents Office in batches  a number of years after the patent applications were lodged. Some patents were included with patents of other years and holdings for each year may not be complete. 

AU-B series

Patents for the years 1975 to 1997 are  filed by year and application number at MF 143. For staff  retrieving the patents, note that the patent number appears on the top right of the microfiche  for example: AU-B 80602/75 is patent number 80602 of the year 1975.

AU-A series

An index to  AU-A patent applications 1975 to 2011 is held at the State Library under the title Australian AU-A patents [electronic resource] / IP Australia.    These are load-on demand CDs and must be loaded by a staff member after 48 hours notice. Use other sources listed on this guide to find patent numbers. 

Microfiche patents held offsite 

Australian AU-A patents  from 1935 to 1999 are  held at YMF 143 at the offsite store. They are listed on the library catalogue under Australia Patent MF 143.  They are filed by Application Number: (AU-A  25,500/35 to  AU-A 32,500/99). Offsite staff have advised that when these microfiche patents are sent to the library from the store, they are stamped with the location MF 143 and the date of accession (1st June 2007). The offsite microfiche must be ordered by a librarian. 

Australian patent number sequences

1904 to December 1935 

Applications were allocated a single number with a year suffix, and this number was retained for patents that were granted.

Patent numbers were allocated in 5 year cycles.

Important - To request patents, you need both the patent number and the year.

December 1935 to 1978

Application numbers allocated for all applications, but granted patents were allocated a separate six digit number, starting with 25558/35 (100,001).

Important - patents were filed by granted number. To identify a granted patent number if only the application number is known:

The Australian official journal of patents, trade marks & designs has concordances showing lists of  application numbers and their  six-figure granted (final) patent number.  This journal is held offsite. A librarian can request the relevant volume for you.  Use the granted number to request the patent from the offsite store, or to search the AusPat database by the patent number.

See the boxes below for further information about the patents journal and a sample of a concordance.

January 1979 to 4 July 2002

Applications were given a nine digit number, and if granted, were given a new six digit number.

5 July 2002 onwards

Applications are given a 10 digit application number that remains the same when the patent is granted.

Other resources

National Archives of Australia (NAA) - search the NAA in Canberra for their holdings of the series of Australian Patents, and search NAA for a limited number of  listings of particular selected patents by name, date, keywords. The major NAA series of Australian patents is Series Number A13882 (1st June 1904 +). See also an outline of the patent records held by the NAA at their Canberra office.

Searching the NAA website for patents

You can  do a basic search from the National Archives of Australia homepage Type the full name or surname of the inventor in the search box with the word patent, for example Smith patent and click on the search button. This gives you a list of patents.

Alternatively, go to the National Archives of Australia homepage and click on Search the Collection, then click on RecordSearch. You can do a Basic Search, using terms such as the surname of the inventor and the word patent.

There is an Advanced search option if you have more information.

The advanced search option can also  be used if you have the patent number, but not the inventor or the year.  Type the word patent in the title keyword box and  type the number with an asterisk after it, in the Control symbol box, for example 4951* This brings up all patents containing this number.

You can select and request a copy of the patent you want from the list of patents on the NAA page. There is a charge.  If a patent has already been digitised, an icon looking like a document will appear in the Digitised Item column.

WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) - enables full text searching of over 1.6 million international patent applications from 1978, including selected Australian patents, via its PATENTSCOPE® Search Service

Patent Lens - a worldwide, open-access, free full-text patent resource. Provides full text access to Australian patents from 1998 +

Google Patents - Australian Patents applied for in the US can be found (in full text) via Google Patents - search by name, date and keyword

British Patents - a limited number of Australian Patents may have been applied for in Great Britain, and some of these may be found in the State Library's print collections, or on Espacenet  (European Patent Office)

Void applications

Some patents were not published in the printed volumes.

These are noted as "Void" for withdrawn, not granted and lapsed applications.

In order to access copies you would need to contact the Canberra office of the National Archives of Australia.

See this example of a Void Application (Number 9010 of 1907)

Current Australian patent law

Australian intellectual property law (Port Melbourne, Vic.; Cambridge University Press 2012 [i.e. 2011] Mark J. Davison; Ann L. Monotti; Leanne Wiseman)

Inventions during World Wars I and II

During World War I, Australian patent applications thought to be of assistance to the enemy, were prohibited from publication or communication, under the War Precautions (Patents) Regulations 1916 (Statutory Rules 140).

Australian patents (as well as trade marks and designs) that were registered to alien enemies, could be suspended in whole or part by powers extended to the Governor General of the Commonwealth.

During World War II, patents thought to be of assistance to the enemy, were referred to the Army Headquarters Inventions Board (1939-1940), the Central Inventions Board (1941-1942), and to the Army Inventions Directorate (1942). The Commissioner of Patents had powers to prohibit or restrict publication, on the grounds of security.

The National Archives of Australia (NAA) hold records of World War II inventions, including the following Series. For additional information see the NAA Army Inventions Directorate, 1942-46 - Fact Sheet 199.

MP76/1 - Inventions correspondence files, 1939-1946

MP100/1- Drawings of inventions, 1939-1945

MP100/3 - Volumes of photographs of inventions, 1939-1945

Keeping up to date with patent information

Current information relating to patents, and other forms of intellectual property (trade marks, designs, copyright) is available online. The database, SNIPER (Searchable Networked Intellectual Property Electronic Resource), includes articles, conference papers, book chapters and online documents.

Full text of SNIPER articles is available on the Informit database in the Library, and can be accessed from home for State Library registered Victorian residents.

Additional sources of patent information - Australian official journal of patents

Print copies of  Australian official journal of patents 1904 to 2003

Australian Official Journal of Patents (title varies) - offsite store - 1904 to 1986 at (YA 608 AU7P) - contact staff for retrieval.

Jan. 22, 1987 to Oct.2,  2003 at YA 608 AU7PAT

CD ROM version for  vol. 17, no. 40 (2003 Oct. 9)-vol. 25, no 50 (2011 Dec. 22)

 Contact staff for retrieval.

Online Australian official journal of patents from July  2004 to the present can be found on the IP Australia website under the Journals heading. 

The following information relates to the historic issues (early to mid-twentieth century): This is a weekly journal listing patent applications and complete specifications accepted as well as lapsed, abandoned or withdrawn patent applications. The journal does not contain full patent applications.  Lists of void applications for non-payment of  fees are given. There are illustrated abridgments to some of the accepted specifications. The listings of complete specifications accepted are organised by year of application and give the patent application number and the final, 6-digit number (the granted publication number). Before December 1935, the application number was the same as the granted number.

For patent applications from December 1935 to July 4, 2002, the application number was different from the  granted number. You need to know the granted number before you can request  the patent from the State Library collection.  You can also use the granted number to search the AusPat database on the IP Australia  website. AusPat  has other search options, so always try it first.

If you are having trouble finding a particular patent on  the AusPat database, you can try searching  the Australian official journal of patents to find the granted number and use this number to search AusPat or to request the printed patent.

Some issues of the journal  (usually January or December ) have a concordance listing application numbers and granted numbers, organised by year. There was often a lengthy period between the date of application and the date the specification was accepted, for example, some of the patent applications in the 1940s took over two years to be accepted. This means that you search a  journal issue published up to two years after the patent application.

See the example of a concordance on the left of this page.

Much of this information relates to historic issues of the patents journal. 

Issues of the Australian official journal of patents from July  2004 to the present can be found on the IP Australia website under the Journals heading.