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TREX 1001: Introduction to Creativity

Find patents

Patents use very unusual language, so you may need to think of very different terms to find a patent. For example, a patent for a cell phone case may be called a protective enclosure for an electronic device. 

For someone unfamiliar with patent classifications, Google Patents will be your best resource for searching.

What is a patent?

  • A right granted to the patent owner that gives exclusive rights to exclude others from making or selling the invention.
    • It is not the right to sell, it is the right to stop others from selling.
    • A patent lasts for about 20 years.
  • There are 3 types of patents: Utility, Design, and Plant.
  • A patent held in the U.S. only means that your rights in the U.S. are protected. Inventors must file patents in several places to get comprehensive coverage. 
  • U.S. Patents are granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Most countries have their own intellectual property office.

NOTE: Trademarks and copyrights are different from patents!

For more information about patents:

What can be patented?

Inventions must meet specific criteria. An invention must be:

  • Novel (unique and new, never made public in any way, anywhere, before the date of the filed application)
  • Useful
  • Non-obvious to someone skilled in the art (Note: to be patented, full disclosure of the technology must be provided.)
  • Full disclosure is required


Adapted from Patents: About Patents by MIT Libraries, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License