Espacenet (often written as esp@cenet) is a free online service for searching patents and patent applications. Espacenet was developed by the European Patent Office (EPO) together with the member states of the European Patent Organisation. Every member state has an Espacenet service in its national language, and access to the EPO's worldwide database, most of which is in English. By the end of 2006, the Espacenet worldwide service contained records on almost 60 million patent publications.

By launching Espacenet in 1996, the EPO is said to have "revolutionized public access to international patent information, releasing patent data from its paper prisons and changing forever how patents are disseminated, organized, searched, and retrieved.

In 2004, Nancy Lambert considered that, although free, Espacenet, like the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database of US patents, "still tend[ed] to have primitive search engines and in some cases rather cumbersome mechanisms to download patents." She reported it as being deliberate, on the part of the USPTO and EPO, "who have said they do not wish to compete unfairly with commercial vendors".

Example of search

On Espacenet's "Advanced Search" page, searching for an application or for a patent by its PCT application number is done in the following way: one enters, in the "Application number" field, firstly, the letters "WO", then the year of the PCT, then the country of origin and finally the five digit identification code for the patent. For example, "PCT/AU99/00872" would be entered "WO1999AU00872".

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