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Searching for Patents

What is a Patent?

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 (usually 20 years) in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted.

This right was established over 200 years ago in Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution: “To 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.”

For additonal information on patents, consult General Information Concerning Patents, published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

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.

Attorneys and Agents

Due to the amount of work involved in researching or defending a patent, some people choose to hire a patent attorney or agent to assist them.  The Directory of Attorneys and Agents registered to practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is searchable by state or territory, as well as foreign and military addresses.

Agent - One who is not an attorney but is authorized to act for, or in place or, the applicant(s), before the USPTO.  The individual must be registered to practice before the USPTO.

Attorney - An individual who is a member in good standing of the Bar of any United States court or the highest court of any state and is registered to practice before the USPTO.

Trademarks and Copyright

Copyright and trademark protection are both also issued by the United States Government.  For additional information consult: 

Library of Congress, US Copyright Office

US Patent and Trademark Office, Trademark home page