Getting started with patents and trademarks

Wondering whether applying for a patent or registering a trademark makes sense for you and your business? Read on for a brief introduction.

What is a patent?

A patent is the right to keep others from making, using, or selling an invention. In other words, when someone has invested the time and creative energy to develop something new and useful, a patent can protect their rights to benefit from their work. As an example, suppose you were frolicking in the rain, and then the wind turned your umbrella inside out, putting an end to your fun. After lots of tinkering to try to find something to stop that from ever happening again, you create a gadget that works. Patenting your invention will keep a major umbrella manufacturer from using it without compensating you.

And what is a trademark?

Registering a trademark provides similar protection for a brand. A trademark can be a word, symbol, or phrase that lets you know the source of what you're buying, and helps you tell it apart from other similar goods or services. For example, suppose you were frolicking in the sun, got really thirsty, and found a vending machine. If the beverage company has successfully established brand recognition, you would not need to look very closely to know what each can or bottle contains, because the branding on the package will tell you all you need to know. Those brands are likely registered trademarks.

How can the Patent and Trademark Resource Center help?

The PTRC is here to help you figure out what you're doing with patents and trademarks. Wherever you are in the process, after a visit or call to the PTRC, you'll know where to go next.

What services are offered by the PTRC?

The PTRC can help you understand the application process, show you where to find the information you need to file for a patent or to register a trademark, explain the importance of searching and give tips on how to do it, and direct you to other sources of assistance.

How to learn more? You've found the PTRC on the SLPL website, but you can also call the Library and ask for help with patents or trademarks, or stop by the PTRC on the first floor of Central Library in the Science & Technology Room.

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