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Intellectual Property

A guide to understanding the different types of Intellectual Property (Copyright, Patents, Trademarks, Trade Secrets)


What is a Patent?

A Patent is a property right granted by the Government of the United States of America to an inventor "to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States" for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted.

Glossary: USPTO. (n.d.). Retrieved November 23, 2019, from


The term Proprietary is often used to describe goods or services that have been issued a Patent to a company or institution. From the Merriam Webster Dictionary, "1one that possesses, owns, or holds the exclusive right to something specificallyPROPRIETOR sense 1 2something that is used, produced, or marketed under exclusive legal right of the inventor or maker specificallya drug (such as a patent medicine) that is protected by secrecy, patent, or copyright against free competition as to name, product, composition, or process of manufacture."


Why does this matter?

It's interesting to note that higher education is one of the main sources of new patents for a wide variety of innovative products spanning every industry. The Bayh-Dole Act which was signed into law in 1980 gives universities (and small businesses) the right to retain Intellectual Property rights to research that was federally funded. Learn more about Bayh-Dole Act and read the original statute. Although the research may originate at private and public universities it obviously makes its way into the commercial sector through various means including, but not limited to; academic and commercial conferences, peer-reviewed publications (journal articles, studies, etc...), and open-access resources/communication. 


The Process of Obtaining a Patent

The United States Trademark and Patent Office have developed a clear and distilled step-by-step process for determining if you need to apply for a patent, what type of patent you need, and how to apply. It includes links to all the required documents, explanations, and definitions. Click the link below to learn more.

Patent Process Overview


Patent Pending

A phrase that often appears on manufactured items. It means that someone has applied for a patent on an invention that is contained in the manufactured item. It serves as a warning that a patent may issue that would cover the item and that copiers should be careful because they might infringe if the patent issues. Once the patent issues, the patent owner will stop using the phrase "patent pending" and start using a phrase such as "covered by U.S. Patent Number XXXXXXX." Applying the patent-pending phrase to an item when no patent application has been made can result in a fine.

Glossary: USPTO. (n.d.). Retrieved November 23, 2019, from

Looking for more information?

There are 3 Patent and Trademark Resource Centers in the region near Roger State University.

Their Mission: "The Patent and Trademark Resource Centers Program administers a nationwide network of public, state and academic libraries designated as Patent and Trademark Resource Centers authorized by 35 U.S.C. 12 to: Disseminate patent and trademark information. Support diverse intellectual property needs of the public."

Click here to learn more.