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Copyright and Intellectual Property: Patents & Trademarks

This guide serves as an introduction to copyright resources and best practices. It is not meant as legal advice.

Patents & Trademarks

What is a patent?

A patent is an agreement between an inventor and the public, represented by the federal government: in return for a full public disclosure of the invention the inventor is granted the right for a fixed period of time to exclude others from making, using, or selling the defined invention in the U.S.

What is a trademark?

A trademark is a word, phrase, logo or other graphic symbol used by a manufacturer or seller to distinguish its product or products from those of others.

Garner, B. A., & Black, H. C. (2009). Black's law dictionary (9th ed.). St. Paul, MN: West.


 For more information about patents, visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Classification Standards and Development

The Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) effort is a joint partnership between the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the European Patent Office (EPO) where the Offices have agreed to harmonize their existing classification systems (European Classification (ECLA) and United States Patent Classification (USPC) respectively) and migrate towards a common classification scheme.

Trademark Search

How to conduct a quick trademark search at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website.


Google Patents

Google Patents coverage includes:

  • United States (1790-present)
  • European Patent Office, EPO (1981-present)
  • World Intellectual Property Organization, WIPO (some coverage)
  • Some Germany, China, and Canada patents

If you are having issues searching the USPTO databases, try searching Google Patents to find the US patent number. Then go back to the USPTO and search by patent number.

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