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Patents and Trademarks: Quick Start

Information about patents and trademarks

Search Tools

Patent Examiner Presentation Slides

Intellectual Property Presentation Powerpoint

Charlotte Business Resources podcast on patents, trademarks

About the PTRC program

As a Patent and Trademark Resource Center (PTRC), Atkins Library receives, stores and provides public access to copies of U.S. patents and patent and trademark materials. Atkins Library is only one of two libraries with this designation in North Carolina (the other is located at NCSU in Raleigh: 

As a PTRC, we provide access to patent and trademark information and assistance with using search tools. We are not permitted to offer advice or opinions on the quality or completeness of a patron's search, nor are we able to suggest keywords, classifications, or other information for their specific inventions, as this could be considered unauthorized practice of law. If a patron is looking for assistance with their specific invention rather than simply with the use of the search tools, they should contact a registered patent attorney or agent(listings of currently registered attorneys and agents are available on the USPTO website).

Quick Start Guide

Ready to get started searching for patents? Try using the following steps:

  1. Brainstorm keywords that describe your idea or invention. What does it do? How is it made? How does it work? Think about what makes your invention innovative or unique.

  2. Use your keywords to begin searching in Google Patents to find similar patents. Google Patents is a very user-friendly resource because it allows you to search the full text of patents going back to 1790. Try different combinations of your terms until you find relevant patents. You can also search in the official USPTO database PatFT, but it only allows full text searching back to 1976 and is a bit more confusing to navigate.

  3. When you have found a patent that you'd like to investigate further, click on the link that says "View Patent at USPTO" to see the official published version of that patent. It's important to use the USPTO version of a patent, because there are some errors in the scanned versions used by Google, and also because changes can be made to a patent's classification after they are published which will not be reflected in the version provided by Google Patents.

  4. Look up the definition of the Current U.S. Classification assigned to the patent using the Manual of Patent Classification. If your patent also would fit in this class/subclass, use that number to search more precisely for relevant patents using the Advanced Search page in Google Patents or the USPTO's PatFT database (set the search option to Current US Classification).

  5. Review the claims, descriptions, and drawings of all relevant patents that you find.

Contact Information

Beth Scarborough's picture
Beth Scarborough
133A Atkins Library
UNC Charlotte

Charlotte Business Resources