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Finding Patents: Research Guide

This guide provides an overview on locating various types of patents

Getting Started

What is a Patent: the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

  • Usually a 20 year exclusive right to the patent within the country the patent was issued
  • The exclusive rights to exclude others from making, selling, or importing the invention.
  • Patent is only valid in the Country it was issued

Three Types of Patents:

  • Utility patents: 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. Also known as 'patents for invention". Lasts 20 years and represent 90% of applications. 
  • Design patents: granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. Only protects the appearance of an article, but not its structural or functional features. Lasts for 14 years. 
  • Plant patents: granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant. Lasts 20 years. 

What is Patentable - Criteria:

  • Novel - unique and new, never made public, before the date of the filed application
  • Useful - identifiable benefit 
  • Non-obvious - to someone working within that field 

Credits: United States Patent and Trademark Office (2014 Oct). General information concerning patents. Retrieved from

Overview & Background

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