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Patent Searching for Scientists: Patent Basics

This guide shares introductory information on Patents and Patent Searching.

STEM Research & Learning Librarian

Denise A. Wetzel's picture
Denise A. Wetzel
Contact:
Paul A. M. Dirac Science Library
(850) 644-3079

Getting Started

What is a patent?

A patent is a limited duration property right relating to an invention, granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office in exchange for public disclosure of the invention.

 

What can be patented?

There are 3 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.

 

Is a Patent a Trademark?

No. Trademark rights may be used to prevent others from using a confusingly similar mark, but not to prevent others from making the same goods or from selling the same goods or services under a clearly different mark.

 

Basic Patent Information:

  • Patent law was adopted into U.S. law at the country’s founding, in the Constitution.
  • Article I, section 8, reads "Congress shall have power . . . 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."
  • Under this power Congress has from time to time enacted various laws relating to patents. The first patent law was enacted in 1790.
  • The specifics of patent law are governed by the Patent Act, a statute passed by Congress. 
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