Answered By: Coleen Neary
Last Updated: Oct 07, 2022     Views: 78

What is a patent?


A patent is a set of exclusive rights granted to an inventor or assignee by a sovereign state for a limited period of time in exchange for detailed public disclosure of an invention.

Types of patents

  • Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.
  • Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. 
  • Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plants.


Helpful Patent Links


United States Patent Office
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office provides information, publications, forms, guides, and services on searching and registering for patents and trademarks. See in particular:


What is a Trademark?


A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination thereof, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.  Trademarks, unlike patents, can be renewed forever as long as they are being used in business.

Types of Trademarks:

  • Registered Trademarks refer to trademarks that have been registered by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  Only registered trademarks are permitted to use the r symbol.
  • State Trademarks as the name suggests, are trademarks that have been registered by a state, not the USPTO.  These trademarks are only valid in the state where they are registered.  State trademarks use the TM symbol.


Findlaw maintains a site with trademark information from all 50 states.


Common Law Trademarks are trademarks that have not been registered by the USPTO, nor have they been registered in any state.  It is not necessary to register a trademark.  You can establish legal rights simply by using the trademark in commerce.  Common law trademarks use the TM symbol.  State courts have jurisdiction over these trademarks.

Trade Secrets are information that companies keep secret to give them an advantage over their competitors. The formula for Coca-Cola is the most famous trade secret.  Trade secrets are protected by state laws, not trademarks or copyrights.


Helpful Trademark Links


Trademark Searching

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has made trademark resources available over the internet. The USPTO trademark database is called TESS (Trademark Electronic Search System). 

Resources available at the USPTO website:


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