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Last Updated: Nov 8, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

Patent Basics Print Page

What is a patent?

A patent is a type of intellectual property right that is granted to an inventor by the United States Patent Office.  More specifically, it grants the right to exclude others from “making, using, offering for sale or selling” the invention in the U.S. or “importing” it into the country for a set period of time.  A patent, then, creates a protected period during which the inventor has an opportunity to profit from his or her invention and recoup the costs of research and development.  This economic incentive rewards innovation which, in turn, drives the economy.


3 Types of Patents

Utility patents are granted for any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture or composition of matter or any new and useful improvement thereof.  Utility patents confer protection for 20 years from the date of application, or 17 years from the issue date, the longer term applying.

Design patents are granted for any new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.  Design patents are granted for a term of 15 years from the date of issue.

Plant patents are granted for the discovery or invention and asexual reproduction of any new, distinct variety of plant.  Plant patents are granted for a term of 20 years from the date of application, or 17 years from the issue date, the longer term applying.


Patent & Trademark Presentation


Patent & Trademark Research Handout

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Patent & Trademark Resource Center

The Patent and Trademark Resource Center (PTRC) at Texas A&M University is located in the R.C. Barclay Reference and Retailing Resources Center on the first floor of the West Campus Business Library.  The Patent and Trademark Resource Center provides access to:

  • PubWEST and PubEAST- The public versions of the databases used by patent examiners, which feature superior search functionality and contain:
    • All U.S. patents issued since 1790.  All patents exist in image format; patents issued since 1976 are also in HTML format
    • Patent applications published since March 2001
  • A complete set of U.S. Plant Patents on microfiche and in hard copy
  • Patent and trademark reference resources

While PTRC staff do not conduct patent searches, we can provide instruction on the search process to individuals, groups and classes.  Appointments are recommended.  To make an appointment or to learn more, please call (979) 845-2111.

For more information on Patents and Trademarks, please continue looking through this guide or the Trademark Research Guide.

Program History and Mission

The Patent and Trademark Resource Center was established in 1871 to make printed patents available to the American public.  Today, the overwhelming majority of patent and trademark information is available electronically and the mission of making it easier to find is carried on by a network of 81 academic, public, state and special libraries across the U.S. and in Puerto Rico.  There are six PTRCs in Texas.  The Texas A&M University Libraries have participated in the PTRC Program since December 22, 1983.


Intellectual Property Disclaimer

Texas A&M University Libraries reference staff assistance with patent and trademark searches will extend no further than providing instruction in the use of various patent and trademark search tools available in the division.  Please note that the library staff is strictly prohibited from interpreting intellectual property law, offering legal advice or opinions, performing patentability and trademark searches for users, or providing advice on how to file a patent or trademark application.  Users shall not infer from any assistance provided by the reference staff any conclusion concerning the patentability of any invention or design or the validity of any trademark.  Furthermore, the reference staff is not permitted to provide opinions on the effectiveness of a searcher's efforts to identify a field of search, nor may they give advice or opinion pertaining to the specifics of the technology the searcher is examining.

All patent and trademark searches done in Texas A&M University Libraries are preliminary, not exhaustive.  Many other steps are required to perform an exhaustive search, such as the examination of foreign and international patent documents and the review of scientific literature.  In the case of trademark searches, exhaustive literature searches need to be done on both compact disc and online databases.  Again, as with patent searches, the types of searches done at Texas A&M University Libraries are preliminary, not exhaustive.  Users who wish further assistance will be directed to listings for registered patent attorneys and agents who have specialized knowledge and experience in predicting patentability and/or the ability of term and/or slogan to be trademarked.

Approved by the Texas A&M University System Legal Counsel for use by the College Station Patent and Trademark Resource Center (PTRC), September 8, 1995, Updated November 27, 2002.

Business Librarian

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Jared Hoppenfeld
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West Campus Library
Texas A&M University
5001 TAMU
College Station, TX 77843-5001
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