Family matters

Inventive ancestors

Do you have an inventor in your family tree? If so, they may have registered a Victorian or Australian patent for their ‘bright idea’. There are two major online sources, both freely available, for searching the names of patent applicants in Australia from the mid 1800s to the present day.

Victorian patents 1854-1904
Prior to 1904 in Australia, inventors were able to register a patent application in each Colonial State. In Victoria, there were over 21,000 patents registered between 1854 and 1904, both by Australian residents and by overseas applicants. You can search for the names of these inventors in the Victoria Government Gazette Online Archive 1836 to 1997

The gazette lists the names of applicants for patents, patent numbers, dates of applications, and the titles of registered patents. To search the online gazette, click on ‘Advanced Search
> enter a person’s or a company’s name in the Search box
> search from 1836 to 1997, or select a specific date range
> in the Subject box, highlight the three subject headings that include the term ‘patents’
> then click ‘Search’
For example, searching under the surname ‘Foot’ from 1836 to 1997 finds 12 records, dating from 1885 to 1903.

Australian patent 1904 +
In Australia after 1904, the administration of the State’s patents acts was transferred to the Commonwealth, when the Australian Patent Office was created, and now named IP Australia. You can search for Australian inventors, from 1904  to the present, using IP Australia’s ‘AusPat‘ online database.

To search ‘AusPat
> select the ‘Structured Search’ option
> tick the box ‘Include Full Text Search’
> from the drop down menu, select ‘Full Specification (Full Text only)’
> enter a person’s or company’s name in the ‘Search’ box
> then click ‘Search’
For example, searching under the surname ‘Jespersen’, finds 87 patents, dating from 1904 to 2010.

Under the ‘Structured Search’ option, you can also select and search for an ‘Applicant Name’ or an ‘Inventor Name’. At the bottom of the search page, you can click on the ‘Help’ or ‘User Guide’ links for detailed advice on searching ‘AusPat’.

For more information about the patents collection at the State Library of Victoria, please refer to our online guide

If you need additional advice searching for and locating the full text of patents, please contact our ‘Ask a librarian‘ service.

David Yandell
Librarian, Redmond Barry

patent

Victorian patent Number 1033 of 1867
John Phillips (Mining Surveyor) St. Arnaud, Victoria
An invention for “An improved apparatus for separating metallic ores from gangues, and the metals from ores and gangues”

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