The status and potential of ink jet technology is discernible in its major technical literature forum: worldwide patents. Most ink jet technical activity is focused in commercial research and development laboratories where proprietary considerations make patents the norm for publication. Currently there are about 2,000 ink jet disclosures issued annually with over 200 enterprises represented. Ink jet patent activity is increasing about 25% per year driven by a rapidly expanding base of products, applications, and revenue. An analysis of the ink jet patent literature reveals a few major themes (i.e. continuous ink jet, piezoelectric drop-on-demand, and thermal ink jet) and numerous minor ones (i.e. electrohydro-dynamic extraction, magnetic drop-on-demand, Hertz continuous, acoustic ink printing). Patents bear witness to transformations in the industry as dominant players of the 1970's have given way to new leaders in the 1990's. They also foretell important commercial developments in ink jet's near term future. When studied in aggregate, the patent record reveals patterns for the industry in general as well as for individual companies. It becomes possible to use the patent data base not only to identify technical approaches and problems for specific firms, but also to track progress and monitor changing strategies. In addition, international filing patterns can provide insights into industry priorities. This paper presents an overview of ink jet technology as revealed by the patent literature. It will include a 25 year perspective, a review of trends over the past five years, and a survey of today's most active companies and their technical approaches. With this analysis, it will be shown that the information inherent in the patent record is more than the sum of its individual disclosures. Indeed, by using it, we can outlook whither goes ink jet.