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Patent, Trademark & Copyright Resources

Introduction to Patents
Patent Searching

Patent Resources
Copyright Resources

Introduction to Trademarks

Trademark Searching

Trademark  Resources


You'll find a useful introduction to patents, trademarks and copyright at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Inventor Resources page.


Introduction to Patents

A patent is a legal document giving its owner a limited monopoly on new and useful technology.  A patent describes the new technology in detail so that others can build on that knowledge.  In return the patent owner may exclude others from making, selling or using your invention for a certain period of time.  There are three kinds of patents. Utility patents protect inventions, design patents protect the appearance of a product, and plant patents protect new varieties of plants.


Patent Searching

Before you can start making money from your invention, you must find out if someone else has already patented it, because they would have the right to take legal action against you. In order to protect yourself, you must make sure your idea is unique by looking at all patents similar to it.

You’ll search the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's (USPTO) Full Text Patent Database on the Internet. This database includes all patents issued since 1790.  However, you must perform two searches.  You’ll start by searching for patents issued from 1976-present.  It’s easier, and will give you the information you need to search the 1790-1975 date range.


Patent Resources

Search the catalog using the following search terms to find the most current print materials in the library's collection: Patents and Intellectual Property

Internet Sites about Patents:

  • USPTO's Patent Site. Find all the official information on patents here.
  • Free Patents Online lets you search for patents and view themas .pdf documents instead of .tiff documents.
  •  Patenting Your Idea, from the Franklin Pierce Law Center. An introduction to the concept of patents.
  • Stanford University Patent & Technology Transfer Databases
  • Yahoo's Patents section. Find links to many internet sites on patents.
  • Patent Law Links. Comprehensive site for all aspects of patent work.  Includes links to case law, statutes and regulations, U.S. Patent Office, patent drawing services, patent law firms, patent search firms, document retrieval firms, intellectual property law and technical schools, professional associations and journals, and legal search engines. U.S. Patent Office forms can be read and printed with Adobe Acrobat Reader.
  • InventNET. Run by a nonprofit group of independent inventors, this site has advice on everything from patent law and software to marketing your invention: classified ads, a newsletter, an online forum, Web links, and inventions for sale.


Introduction to Trademarks

A trademark is a distinctive word, phrase, or symbol that identifies the source of a product and distinguishes one company's product from another.  A service mark is essentially the same but it identifies a service. You aren't required to register a trademark, but there are legal advantages to doing so, including the exclusive right to use the mark on or in connection with your goods or services.

A trademark search will identify pre-existing marks that may cause confusion with the mark you want to use. Trademarks are given a classification - a category of goods or services the mark will be used for. Examples are Class 7 (Machinery) and Class38 (Telecommunications services).  It is difficult to find a unique trademark not in use, but as long as two similar marks aren't in the same classification you may be able to use yours.


Trademark Searching

You'll search for trademarks using the USPTO Trademark database on the Internet. Go to the USPTO Trademark Home Page, then click on "Search Trademarks". The database covers marks from 1984 - present, for the most part. The database contains only federally registered trademarks. No state, foreign, 'common-law', inactive or expired trademarks are included.

Finding the Image of a Trademark:

Only about 25% of trademarks have images associated with them. Most of the time words alone are trademarked. If there is an image, it appears at the top of the page describing each trademark. (The addition of the images takes some time - there is a few-months delay.)

Trade Names:

Companies frequently use their trade names as trademarks or service marks for their products and services. Trade names may be registered on the state or local level. You can search for trade names in business directories such as the Thomas Register, Reference USA (a nationwide business directory), Internet telephone book databases, and state incorporation records.


Trademark Resources 

Search the library catalog using the following search terms to find the most current print materials in the library's collection: Trademarks

Internet Sites about Trademarks:


Where to Get Patent/Trademark Help and Information:


Copyright Resources

A copyright protects the writings of an author against copying. Literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works are protected by the copyright law, which in some instances also protects performing and recording rights. The copyright protects the form of expression rather than the subject matter. All works created on or after January 1, 1978 are copyrighted for the life of the author plus 70 years.

A work doesn’t have to be published to be copyrighted. Under present law, copyright is secured automatically when the work is recorded for the first time (e.g. on paper or videotape). However, to obtain the most legal protection, register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office.

Copyright Registration and Forms:

To figure out what forms and process you need to register a copyright, visit the Copyright web site, and click on "How to Register a Work". The fee is $45 to register a copyright.

Copyright forms are available on the Internet in Adobe Acrobat format. You can also request forms be mailed to you by filling out the Copyright Forms by Mail web page.

Copyright Searching:

Contacting the Copyright Office:

U.S.Copyright Office
Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave. SE, Washington DC 20559-6000
Public Information Office: (202) 707-3000 (Mon-Fri, 8:30am to 5pm, Eastern Time)

Books About Copyright:

Search the catalog using the following search terms to find the most current print materials in the library's collection: Copyright and Intellectual Property


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