Google Patents/Beta - This is a quick and comprehensive way to search patents for which you have little information.
USPTO Patents Search Page - This site is helpful to find patents if specific details such as patent name or number are known.
USPTO Manual of Patent Classification - Visit this site if you want to search for patents according to class.
Espacenet (worldwide patents via EPO) - This site provides a patent search engine of over 70 million patent documents worldwide.
Patent Bar Information - Click here for detailed information about the patent bar and how to take it.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is an agency under the U.S. Department of Commerce that was established under Article 1, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution:
"The Congress shall have PowerTo promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."
Inventor - One who contributes to the conception of an invention. The patent law of the United States of America requires that the applicant in a patent application must be the inventor.
Invention - any art or process (way of doing or making things), machine, manufacture, design, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, or any variety of plant, which is or may be patentable under the patent laws of the United States.
Assignee - The entity that is the recipient of a transfer of a patent application, patent, trademark application or trademark registration from its owner of record (assignor)
Assignor - The owner of record of a patent application, patent, trademark application or trademark registration who is transferring (assigning) ownership to another entity (assignee)
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A Patent is a 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. (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, retrieved October 20, 2011)
There are 5 types of patents.
Utility Patents – May be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof; a utility patent life is 20 years from filing. An example of a utility patent can be found here.
Design Patents – May be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. Design patent life is 14 years from issue. One of the most famous design patents can be found here.
Plant Patents – May be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant. Plant patent life is 20 years from filing. An example can be found here.
Reissue Patent - Issued to correct an error in an already issued utility, design, or plant patent, it does not affect the period of protection offered by the original patent.
Defensive Publication - Issued instead of a regular utility, design, or plant patent, it offers limited protection, defensive in nature, to prevent others from patenting an invention, design, or plant. The Defensive Publication was replaced by the Statutory Invention Registration in 1985-86 by the Statutory Invention Registration (SIR) which offers similar protection. An example can be found here.
If you are not familiar with the topic, you may find that a research guide or tutorial is a useful tool to assist you with your research. We hope that you will find this guide helpful.
You should review the date the research guide was last updated. Using a research guides updated in the last year will help ensure you are relying on current information. However, if you are conducting historical research, an older guide may be helpful.
Some of the most popular guides include:
1) The University of Southern California's Patent Research Guide provides tutorials, research guides, and databases to further your patent research
2) Stanford University, in the heart of Silicon Valley, has produced a Patent Law Research Guide that provides information on patent searching techniques as well as patent news links, and the historical underpinnings of patent law.
The Law Library has several Intellectual Property LibGuides.