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Government Documents: Patents, Trademarks & Copyright

information and resource guides from Government Documents Department


What is a patent & when do I need one?

A patent is an intellectual property right granted by the Government of the United States of America to an inventor “to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States” for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted. (USPTO)

Three types of patents: 

  • utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers a new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.
  • design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.
  • plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually produces any distinct and new variety of plant.

Checklist: Should you patent your invention?
a few questions to ask before filing a patent application

When do you really need a patent?
a few pre-patent considerations from Business Week

Patent Basics

Patent Searching

Knowing if an invention is patentable is the first step in obtaining a patent. A thorough search of of all previous public disclosures (prior art) including, but not limited to previously patented inventions in the U.S. should be conducted. A search of foreign patents and printed publications should also be conducted.


What is a trademark?

A Trademark or Trade Mark is a type of intellectual property, and typically a name, word, phrase, logo, symbol, design, image, or a combination of these elements.

A trademark is a distinctive sign or indicator used by an individual, business organization, or other legal entity to identify that the products or services to consumers with which the trademark appears originate from a unique source, and to distinguish its products or services from those of other entities. (wikipedia)

Trademark Basics

Additional Resources for Filing & Searching Patents, Trademarks & Copyright

Books in the Library


What is copyright?

Copyright is the set of exclusive rights granted to the author or creator of an original work, including the right to copy, distribute and adapt the work. (wikipedia)

Copyright Basics

Filing for Copyright

Copyright Resources on the Web