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Patents and Trademarks

Provides an introduction to patents, how to search for patents, & basic information on trademarks.

Information provided on this guide is for general information purposes only.

Interested in obtaining a patent or trademark? Please use one of the services below:

Where do you find inspiration for design ideas? Patents!

These pages have some tips and tricks for searching patents -- which is a tricky exercise because:
  1. Most patents protect a function rather than an application -- such as, an extruder rather than a device for making donuts or drinking straws.
  2. Many large and complex products are governed by multiple patents developed over time by different inventors.
  3. Some inventors (and their patent attorneys) deliberately use obscure language to hide their intentions until a product is released.
  4. Many patents do not contain the product, brand, or trade name.  They may be trying to hide, or they may not have devised the product name at the time of the patent application.
  5. Some products (such as Gatorade) are not patented, often because the inventor does not want the secrets to be published.

Types of Patents

Patent websites vary in coverage. Some only have full text or images for recent years. Some have better quality images than others. In some search engines, keywords only work on recent years. If you are doing a full, deep, and serious search, be sure to identify and search on the patent classifications as well as keywords.
There are three types of U.S. 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. Utility patents are the most common type of patent and protect an invention for 20 years. 
Example: Eye tracking apparatus configured for degrading iris authentication (US11079843B2) 

2) Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. Design patent numbers start with D and are protected for 14 years.
Example: Wiper blade ornament (USD707612S1)

3) Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant. Plant patent numbers start with PP and are protected for 20 years.
Example: Blueberry plant called Emerald (USPP12165P2)

...and patents include definitions of terms used. Remember, though, that patents are written by attorneys and not by engineers!

(from USPTO website)

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