Skip to main content

Patents and Trademarks : Overview

A guide to information on patents and trademarks, patent searching, inventor resources and UW intellectual property resources.

Get Patent Help!

Patent and trademark services have moved from Wendt Library to Steenbock Library, Room 118. Steenbock Library is a USPTO Patent & Trademark Resource Center. Read about our Patents & Trademark services.

For questions or to set up an appointment, email asksteenbock@library.wisc.edu or call (608) 262-0696

What Is a Patent?

A patent is a grant of property right by the government to an inventor preventing others from making, using, or selling a new and useful invention for a period of 20 years from application date.

Watch library videos on patents:


How are patents different from trademarks and copyrights?

In addition to protecting different types of intellectual property, patents, copyright, and trademarks are protected for different lengths of time and are registered with separate agencies (in the United States, copyrights are registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, patents and trademarks are registered with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office; trademarks can also be protected on the state level). 


Why search patents?

Searching patents during the design process can help you:

  • Determine if your idea is novel
  • Identify areas you may need to design around to avoid infringement
  • Find inventors (technical experts) with whom to collaborate
  • Find inventions that are free to use because of expired or unissued patents
  • Monitor emerging designs in a technology area that may not be published elsewhere
  • Identify key companies in a technology area who may be interested in your design.

Key Information

The most comprehensive source for U.S. patent and trademark information is the website of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office:

Intellectual Property Micro-Course

For more information about intellectual property, including patents, read UW Libraries' Introduction to Intellectual Property Micro-Course.