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UMass Amherst Libraries

Food Science

Patent information

Patents allow inventors to profit from their inventions, but expire after 20 years, to allow unimpeded progress from that invention.

For more help, use the
UMass Amherst guide for Patents and Trademarks.

or  US Patent & Trademark Office for the deepest search.

Google Patents is great for looking at earlier patents (before 1976) and quick searching, but it's hard do a thorough seach.

Patents are organized into classes based on their subject. Many FOOD patents are in the 426 class.

Patent Class for Food

A person filing a patent is required to search the patents to see if the idea has already been patented.

Patents are given class numbers by subject. Class numbers allow us to find patents on the same subject.
This system is complex. An example of a class for food-related patents:

Class 426

Find here official definitions of this class and its subclasses, and see patents assigned this class.

US Government sources

A wealth of data, documents, and websites are available from the U.S. government. Examples:

Food Safety Research Information Office
Info portal for this topic at US Dept of Agriculture. Find fact sheets, reports, databases of outbreaks, etc.
on common food pathogens and other food safety issues.

Food and Drug Administration
Part of the Dept of Health and Human Services. Find info on product recalls, outbreaks of food-borne illness, regulations about ingredients, packaging, labeling,supplements, etc.
The FDA also publishes the Food Code, "a model that [provides]... a scientifically sound technical and legal basis for regulating ...restaurants and grocery stores and institutions such as nursing homes."

Foodborne DiseasesNational Institutes of Health website. Examples: - for the public/consumer: "Your Gateway to Food Safety Information"

Food Composition Database- search by food item, food group, or manufacturer's name to find the nutrient information

  • USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference - (user guide here)
  • USDA Branded Food Products Database (user guide here)


Books on Food Patents and Food Law

Spotlight on a useful book on food patents, trade secrets, trademarks, and copyright.
Find this electronic book in our library catalog:

Intellectual Property in the Food Technology Industry : protecting your innovation
Ryan W. O'Donnell, John J. O'Malley, Randolph J. Huis, Gerald B. Halt, Jr.
Springer Science, 2008

Written by four members of an intellectual property law firm, Volpe and Koenig, P.C.

This e-book platform allows you to download a .pdf for each chapter.

Governmental regulation of food:  examples of useful subject headings in the library catalog:

Food -- Safety measures
Food law and legislation -- United States
Food security