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Patents and Trademarks: Home

Basic patent resources for general research and design ideas

Patent and Trademark Information


Basic Information

What is a patent?

The right conferred by the patent grant is, in the language of the statute and of the grant itself, “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the invention in the United States or “importing” the invention into the United States. What is granted is not the right to make, use, offer for sale, sell or import, but the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing the invention. Once a patent is issued, the patentee must enforce the patent without aid of the USPTO.

General patent information from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

Types of Patents

There are three types of patents:

1) 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;
2) Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture; and
3) Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.

Utility and plant patents have a term of 20 years while the design patent term is 14 years.

Provisional patent application

Since June,1995, the USPTO allows a provisional patent application to provide a lower filing cost alternative and does not require a formal claim and oath or declaration.  This allows an inventor to receive a filing date, receive a 12 month period to assess commercial potential before incurring the higher cost to file a nonprovisional patent, and be authorized to use a "Patent Pending" notice.  Complete information, including the pros and cons of a provisional patent application are available at the USPTO site

Parts of a patent:

Before you begin searching patents, you may wish to look at the sections of a patent.  Click here for the Penn State Library page. 

One of the most important parts is the claim as patentability is based upon the applicants claims:

(from the USPTO) "The claim or claims shall define the matter for which protection is sought. Claims shall be clear and concise. They shall be fully supported by the description."

For more information click on the "Patent Parts" tab near the top of the page.

For more information (a lot more!) click here to go to the USPTO "General Information Concerning Patents Page".

Now that you know more about patents it is time to begin the patent search process.  To get started, click here to go to the "Search Patents page.