Guide to Patent and Trademark Resources

PTRC logoThe State of Arizona Research Library has been designated as a Patent and Trademark Resource Center by the US Patent Office. In addition, as the state's regional Federal Depository, it receives patent related materials.

General Information About Patents

What is a Patent?  

"A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.", USPTO
What Are Patents, Trademarks, Servicemarks, and Copyrights?

There are three types of patents (from USPTO):
General Information Concerning 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."

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Inventor Resources website includes a link to a helpful guide to what a patent is and addresses other questions an inventors and researchers might have.

The USPTO website has information:

  • if you are interested in learning about patents
  • researching "prior art" (similar inventions) back to 1790
  • filing your patent application online
  • looking at who has the rights to someone else's patent (assignments)

Patent Searching

Considering patenting your own invention and want to do a patent search?

You can now do a preliminary patent search from home or work – anywhere with an internet connection. It is possible to view patents back to 1790 via the USPTO web database.

However, US patents prior to 1976 are only indexed by their current classification number, issue date and patent number. Thus, to find all earlier patents that may be "prior art" or similar to your invention, you will need to learn how to search patents by classification number.

Guides to Patent Searching

The USPTO has put together The 7-Step U. S. Patent Search Strategy to explain how to do a thorough patent search using the Cooperative Patent Classification system (CPC). This enables you to search for earlier, similar inventions by a classification number. (All U.S. inventions are given a classification number of this type). Searching by classification number is far more thorough than trying to search by keyword. Be prepared to spend some time on your searches!

The Patent Searching tutorial by Andrew Wohrley from Auburn University Libraries will guide you through the 7 step strategy though its geared for Auburn's libraries. (It is a very large file and takes a long time to load.)

Online and Print Patent Resources at the State of Arizona Research Library

Online access to the Internet and USPTO website - this website has the official online Cooperative Patent Classification scheme.

Need more in-depth info? At the State Library, we have online and print access to leading intellectual property law journals.  Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office - SuDocs No.: C 21.5 (1872-1971 in remote storage) followed by later titles (1971-2000 with older issues in remote storage).  The most current issues are online

Report of the Commissioner of Patents in the United States Congressional Serial Set

The reports for 1993 and later are online.

All patent-related publications issued by the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) to Federal Depository Libraries

The State of Arizona Research Library is the Regional Federal Depository Library for Arizona receiving 100% of the materials issued by the GPO.

Books in the PTRC’s collection

Other Patent Depository and Trademark Resource Center Libraries

PTRC libraries listed by the USPTO

Inventor's Assistance - Help and How to Avoid Scams for Would-Be Inventors

  • Visit the online Inventors Assistance Center of the United States Patent and Trademark Office to see inventor assistance SCAMS to watch out for, read chat questions of other inventors and skim helpful guides.
  • Call the Inventors Assistance Hotline at 800-PTO-9199 (800-786-9199) or 571-272-1000. Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.(ET).
  • See complaints filed against invention promotion companies and learn why people feel they have been cheated.
  • Meet locally and network with other inventors through the Inventors Association of Arizona
  • Attend local workshops related to patents and marketing from SCORE.

Finding Historical Patents

Otherwise known as researching great uncle's wacky inventions, searching for inventors, or checking out patents from a history perspective:

  • See “Finding Historical Patents by Inventor Name at the Arizona State Library and Archives” for a methodical search of both online and paper resources.
  • This handout also includes links to databases of inventors.
    For example: a database of female inventors
  • If you are looking to information about old tools, see the Directory of American Machine and Tool Patents.
  • To view early patents in the Serial Set, see “Documents in the Serial Set Containing Index of Patents”.

What About Google?

If you're searching patents for fun and not profit, try your luck with Google's Patent Search:

  • Great for unusual inventor names
  • For inventors patenting prior to 1920
  • Excellent for easily pulling up images

Try Google if you want to retrieve a patent image quickly (combine a number and a keyword):

  • A fun example: Put curtis and "infant garment" in Google's search box
  • Use the Advanced Search: Put 223898 in the Patent Number box and select Jan 1880 in the Issue Date section

NOTE: this search cannot take the place of a systematic search for prior inventions by classification if you intend to patent your creation.

Fun With Patents and Trademarks

Games and trivia from the USPTO

Sound Trademarks

More Information About Patents

Patent statistics

Spanish language explanation of patenting from the Biblioteca de la Universidad de Puerto Rico: for informational purposes only

Search for patent attorneys and agents registered with the USPTO.

Information about the Historic Patent Office.

Trademarks in Brief

What is a Trademark or Service Mark?

From USPTO: Trademark, copyright or patent?

  • "A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others."
  • "A service mark is the same as a trademark, except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product."

The USPTO Trademarks website has more information about searching for and filing applications for service and trademarks.

USPTO resources related to Conducting a Trademark Search

Search or apply for an Arizona trade name

  • via the Secretary of State's Tradenames and Trademarks site
  • or call Mon – Fri 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (602) 542-6187
  • or file in person at State Capitol Executive Tower 1700 W. Washington Street Suite 220
  • In Tucson, visit Arizona State Complex Building, 400 West Congress, 2nd Floor, Room 252, Tucson, Arizona 85701

Copyright In Brief

What is a Copyright?

From USPTO: Trademark, Patent, or Copyright?

  • A Copyright is a form of protection provided to the authors of "original works of authorship" including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished.

For more information