Patents protect the rights of inventors of products and processes. Patents vary in duration.
Some less obvious things that can be patented are:
To obtain a patent or trademark, you must prove that your invention is novel - new. Otherwise, when you begin producing and marketing, you could be infringing someone else's intellectual property. Searching patents is also a good way to keep track of research and development in your field.
On the USPTO website, you will find an outline of seven steps to searching patents. Here is a summary.
Before conducting a search, stop and consider the key words you will be searching. Answer these questions:
What are key words and technical terms that describe the nature of this invention? Try to be as specific as possible. Then think of any synonyms to group with each. Consulting a technical dictionary can be helpful.
All products and processes are arranged in a hierarchical scheme called the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC). Find the most relevant CPC code(s) for your invention using the site search box: enter CPC scheme gadget where gadget is your keyword.
Search PatFT using the CPC code(s) first, then do a Keyword search in PatFT in case you missed a filing that was not well classified, or in a class you overlooked. NOTE: when Keyword searching, use $ to truncate a word: machin$
Search AppFT the database of pending applications the same ways.
Search the European Patent Office search engines using the CPC code(s).
Make an appointment with a Patent and Trademark Resource Center to finalize your search results. If you need assistance preparing, ask your librarian. The nearest PTRC are: Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library; Siegesmund Engineering Library, Purdue University; Dunbar Library, Wright State University, Dayton OH.
The PTRC may recommend that you consult a patent attorney.
USPC: old national patents hierarchies
CPC: Cooperative Patent Classification, a hierarchy developed by the US and EU, used in the US since 1 January 2013
IPC: International Patent Classification scheme
Locarno Classification: international scheme for industrial design; 2D and 3D elements, includes fashion designs
Nice Classification: international scheme for Trademarks
Vienna Classification: international scheme for the figurative elements of marks (shapes, colors, text)