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Engineering Information, Patents

Viewing Patent Images

Recently I’ve been having trouble viewing patent images on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website. This is particularly galling because most students and faculty don’t want to just read the full text of the patents, but also want to view the figures and drawings. For those of you who haven’t done much viewing of patent images, the USPTO uses the TIFF image format to store and view patent images. Regardless of your operating system and browser (whether MAC, Windows, or Linus), you need a browser plugin to properly view these patent TIFF files.

There’s the rub: the process of downloading these plugins is a little complicated. So here’s a quick tutorial on this, based on my experiences over the last day or two.

For Apple Mac’s:

The Apple company supplies links to plugins to enable you to view TIFF files. However, these are freeware programs. The one that I tried loading on one of our science reference computers made the TIFF patent images huge, with a small viewer window, which led to excruciating scrolling back and forth, up and down, to view each page. NOT COOL! I did find that the Preview program already loaded on the Macs, while having the same basic scrolling problem as the freeware plugins, does enable one to save each separate patent image page and then reopen it in Preview. The reopened image is much more viewable as a whole page than the initial image right from the USPTO page. However, you need to download each separate page and reopen it before you can view it. Not great, but manageable.

By the way, QuickTime might also be set up as the default image reader on your Mac as well.  I discovered this last night on my Mac IBook.  So, follow the directions below for turning this off.

For PC’s:

1. If you have QuickTime loaded on your PC, this may be set as the default viewer for images. You want to turn this off! So, you need to go to your Program Files folder on your C: drive, find the QuickTime folder, and open the “QuickTimePlayer” program. Once the program is open, go to Edit-Preferences-QuickTime Preferences. Once you’ve opened this window, click on “MIME Settings”. This will open a checklist. You want to uncheck the “Images – Still Images” box. This will replace the check mark (if it is there) with either a horizontal line or a blank space. (Note: make sure it is left BLANK when you are done!) You can then click “Okay” and close QuickTime.

2. Next, go to the U.S. Patent Office “Patent Full Page Images” webpage. They offer links to Windows, MAC and Linus plugins. Here are the links to the Windows ones:

3. Download the plugin of your choice. Make sure to install the file (by running it) once you’ve downloaded it.

4. You will need to move the plugin program file into the Plugins folder in the main folder for your browser on the C: Drive (ex. C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\Plugins). The plugin program did not seem to do this by itself.

5. Register your plugin. (It will probably prompt you automatically to do this when you click on a patent image link.)

6. Go to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and try viewing a patent image.

7. Remember that you must print out or download each separate page image. There appears to be no way to download the whole patent document as one file. (How idiotic is that?!)

If anybody has any other advice on this, I’d be most appreciative!


About Ed Eckel

I am a engineering and applied sciences librarian at Western Michigan University.


4 thoughts on “Viewing Patent Images

  1. Thanks. this was great. I had an old computer which used innoVUE with no problem. Vista wasn’t happy with however and your solution was fast and the images are once again there!!

    Posted by Neil Shotton | February 20, 2007, 4:35 pm
  2. If you buy the non freeware copy of internetiff, you do not have to download/print page by page.
    The entire file is in a multipage file.
    I have moved to a mac however and am trying to solve the huge image problem now.

    Posted by Gina Kritchevsky | July 4, 2008, 8:58 pm
  3. If you use the USPTO site to get the patent number, then type the number into http://www.pat2pdf.org/, you can download the entire document as a single pdf file at no charge.

    This is especially useful for Mac users.

    Posted by Bob Villwock | April 12, 2010, 5:04 pm
  4. Thanks for the ideas. http://www.pat2pdf.org/ works well for a Mac. I never could find an Apple plug in for viewing images.

    Posted by Jose | July 13, 2011, 3:15 pm

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