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A guide on what patents are and how to find them.

What are patents?

A patent is a limited duration property right relating to an invention, granted by the a governing patent office in exchange for public disclosure of the invention. In the United States, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) grants US patents and trademarks. 

Patent Requirements and Types

There are three main types of patents:

  1. Utility
  2. Design
  3. Plant

Each patent type covers a specific duration of time. For instance, the most common patent type, Utility Patents, last 20 years from the date of application. Learn more about the patent types via the USPTO's General Information Page.  

According to the patent statute, any inventor who “invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent".  The invention or discovery, in addition to being new and useful, must also be non-obvious. Learn more in the video below:

Reasons to Search for Patents

There are many reasons to search for patents, whether you are interested in patenting an idea or you're working on a course project here at LMU. Reasons include:

  • discovering if anyone else has patented your idea;
  • gaining design inspiration;
  • discovering technical and research trends;
  • identifying leading corporations and inventors.