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What is a patent

What is a Patent?

A patent is a type of intellectual property. It is an invention that is granted as a property right to the inventor. Generally, the term of a new patent is 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States. There are three types of patents: (1) Utility, covering function; (2) Design, covering ornamental design; and (3) Plant, for a new variety of plant.

Types of Patents

There are three types of patents:

Plant - A new variety of plant (e.g. a tomato)
Design - Appearance / ornamental design
Utility - Function. 90% of patents filed are for utility

Patent Process Overview

  1. Is your patent patentable? It must be novel, useful, and non-obvious. Look at "Prior art"
  2. What type of patent do you need?
  3. Submit your application
  4. Work with a patent examiner
  5. Receive approval or rejection (typically within 3 years of filing)
  6. Maintain your patent (maintenance fees)

Portfolio basics

Patent Research Guide

BikeShare Bike Patent

what is design portfolio

Search for Patents

Patent Pro Tips

Patent Pro Tips

Do a Title Search

TTL/(***) in USPTO and TI=(***) in Google allow you to search the titles of patents. 

See Google search tips

See USPTO search tips


Questions to consider when searching for a patent:

  • What does the invention do?

  • What is the end result?

  • What is it made of?

  • How is it used?


When inventing or innovating you should...

  1. Try to solve a problem and explain in detail how the proposed invention will solve the various problematic issues.  

  2. Ensure that the proposed invention is healthy for humans, animals, and the natural environment. 

  3. Draw the proposed invention and write down all the proposed invention's unique functions, features, and parts to ensure as many original features as possible before conducting a prior art review.

  4. Be able to explain the steps of use of the proposed invention with a diagram, which will provide a visualization of the written, detailed explanation of the logic of use.

  5. Be able to explain all functions, features, and parts of the proposed invention with logic, eliminating "leaps of faith and magic".

Patent Resources

Patent Resources

RICHARD WELSH LIBRARY at NewSchool of Architecture + Design

1249 F Street San Diego CA 92101

619 684 8783