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Course & Subject Guides

Copyright and Intellectual Property Toolkit

Here you can find information, resources, and tools to address copyright issues and concerns in research and teaching.


trademark logo For complete information about trademarks, see the US Patent and Trademark Office's informational website

Brief Definition: A trademark is a name, symbol or phrase used in interstate commerce to identify the source of a product or service. A business or company name is a trade name and cannot be registered federally.


There are two types of trademarks typically registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office: 

  • Trademarks - used by their owners to identify goods, that is, physical commodities, which may be natural, manufactured, or produced, and which are sold or otherwise transported or distributed via interstate commerce.
  • Service marks - used by their owners to identify services, that is, intangible activities, which are performed by one person for the benefit of a person or persons other than himself, either for pay or otherwise.

For more information about trademarks, see the helpful links below:


patent pending iconFor complete information about patents see the US Patent and Trademark Office's Web pages and see a patent attorney or agent to ensure a thorough understanding.

Brief Definition: A (U.S.) patent is a grant of a property right by the (U.S.) Government to you, the inventor, "to exclude others from making, using or selling the invention." Patents differ significantly from copyrights and trademarks.


All patents must be "maintained" by paying a fee to the US Patent & Trademark Office at certain intervals. If you fail to pay the maintenance fee, your patent expires and you lose exclusive rights to your invention. Only a special act of Congress (pretty rare!) can extend the term of a patent, though certain pharmaceutical patents (a special type of chemical patent, not to be confused with patent medicines) don't require such extreme measures.

For more in-depth information about patents, check out the guide below.

Trade Secrets

Trade secrets are a type of Intellectual Property (IP) the have an economic value because they are not generally known or readily ascertainable by others, and which the owner takes reasonable measures to keep secret. Outside of the United States such secrets may be referred to as confidential information. 

Probably the best known trade secret is the formula for Coca-Cola, which was first invented in 1888.