Bevier Engineering Library
Library Research Guide for Engineers
A patent is a property right
granted by the government to the inventor. The person who files a patent
is the only person who can make, use or sell his or her invention for the
period of time until the patent expires (anywhere from 14 to 20 years).
When someone files a patent in the United States,
it is published by the United States Patent
and Trademark Office and made available to the public. The person who
files the patent must include a detailed description of his or her invention.
This detailed information is useful to engineers who are interested in
the way a product is made and works.
There are three forms of patents:
utility patents, design patents and plant patents. Utility patents,
granted most commonly for products, processes or "compositions of matter"
are filed most often, especially by engineers. Design patents, on
the other hand, are typically filed for decorative features of products;
they protect the "look" of a product. Plant patents are filed for
plants such as new varieties of flowers or fruits and vegetables.
Many people confuse patents
with trademarks or copyright. These are all forms of "intellectual property;"
however, patents involve inventions, while trademarks protect product names
and/or the symbols that represent them. Copyright protects creative work,
such as writing or artwork.
1. United States Patent and Trademark Office's Patent Database
There are several different ways to search for a patent. One of the quickest ways to find patents is to do a search the United States Patent and Trademark Office's Patent Database
2. United States Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries
The United States Patent and Trademark Office sends copies of all of the patent and trademark information that is publicly available to over eighty academic and public libraries in the U.S. The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is one of these Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries In the Science and Technology Department of the Carnegie Library's main branch in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, you can search paper and electronic indexes to find the patent you are looking for and then access the full text of that patent on microfilm. The library holds microfilm copies of ALL patents filed since the first one in 1790 (the year George Washington signed the first patent law). Staff members in the library can assist you in accessing these resources.
Robinson, Judith Schiek. Tapping the Government Grapevine: the User
Friendly Guide to U.S. Government Information Sources. Phoenix, AZ:
Oryx Press, 1998.
U.S. Department of Commerce, Patent and Trademark Office. Basic Facts
About Patents. Washington, D.C.