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Whether you're developing a new invention or would like to learn more about a currently existing one, patents serve as a useful source of information regarding existing intellectual properties, their inventors, blueprints/schematics, when they were filed, etc.
Google Patents provides access to United States Patents from the 1790s to the present. It includes 8 million patents and 3 million patent applications. Searchers can easily download the pdf of a patent found in the database.