Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights

Patent and Trademark Resource Center logoWelcome to the Broward County Library Reference Section web page on intellectual property. This site is designed to provide basic information on patents, trademarks and copyrights -- what they are and how and where to search them. Links to a variety of intellectual property websites are also provided on this and the other intellectual property webpages on our website. As a Patent and Trademark Resource Center (PTRC), the Broward County Main Library disseminates information on behalf of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The Reference Section of the Broward County Main Library is one of over 80 libraries nationwide designated by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) as a Patent and Trademark Resource Center (PTRC). The Broward County Main Library became a PTRC (formerly Patent and Trademark Depository Library or PTDL) in 1984. As a PTRC, it receives and maintains a collection of patent and trademark materials for public use in accordance with Title 35, Section 12 of the U.S. Code. The Section also maintains information on copyrights, as it is another form of intellectual property. Copyright registrations are administered by the Copyright Office at the Library of Congress, not the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

What are Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights?

Patents, trademarks and copyrights represent various forms of intellectual property. Although there are some similarities and in rare cases, overlaps in protection, they are different and serve different purposes. The following provides some brief descriptions of each:

Patents are "a grant of a property right by the Government to the inventor." Patents allow inventors to exclude others from making, using, or selling their invention. For more information about patents please see General Information Concerning Patents at the USPTO's website (Adobe PDF file version).

Trademarks are "any word, name, symbol or device which is used in trade with goods and services to indicate the source or origin of the goods or services and to distinguish them from the goods or services of others." For more information about trademarks please see the Trademark Basics page and the Basic Facts about Trademarks at the USPTO's website.

Copyrights "protect the writings of an author against copying. Literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works are included." "Copyright protects the form of expression rather than to the subject matter of the writing." For more information about copyrights please see Copyright Basics at the Library of Congress, Copyright Office's website.

For more information on differentiating among these forms of intellectual property please follow the link What Are Patents, Trademarks, Servicemarks, and Copyrights? to the discussion on the USPTO website.

The following types of information are available in the Reference Section:

  • General patent, trademark, and copyright information,
  • How to determine the patentability of a new idea,
  • How to conduct patent or trademark searches, and
  • How to prepare a patent, trademark, or copyright application.

Print Resources

The materials listed below are available in the Reference Section: 


  • Utility Patents -- 1790-present
  • Design Patents -- 1842-present
  • Plant Patents -- 1931-present
  • Reissue Patents -- 1872-present
  • Attorneys and Agents Registered to Practice before the
    U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
  • Classification Definitions
  • Code of Federal Regulations, Title 37
  • Commissioner of Patents, Annual Reports
  • Index of Patents
  • Index to the U.S. Patent Classification System
  • Manual of Classification
  • PCT Applicants guide
  • Shepard's U.S. Citations: Patents and Trademarks


  • Code of Federal Regulations, Title 37
  • Design Code Manual for Trademarks
  • Official Gazette


  • Code of Federal Regulations, Title 37
  • Copyright Circulars

The Reference Section also has many related books, government reports and documents, how-to manuals, and other information relating to patents, trademarks and copyrights. Please ask the staff for assistance.

Links to Web sites  

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office - website
This is the official site of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Patent and trademark searches may be conducted here. In addition, information on how to apply for patents and trademarks is provided.

U.S. Copyright Officewebsite
This is the official site of the Copyright Office. The forms and informational circulars of the Copyright Office are available at this site.

Additional links to other sites may be found at the following Broward County Library web pages:

Frequently Asked Questions about Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights


1.  May materials be checked out related to patents, trademarks, & copyrights?

Yes, circulating copies of books on these subject matters may be checked out. All materials in the Main Library Reference Section are reference, but materials are available on the fourth floor in the circulating collection. Also, many materials are available throughout the library system at the various branch libraries.

2.  Can I conduct a patent or trademark search at a branch library?

Searching for patents or trademarks should be initiated at the Main Library, Reference Section (5th floor). Although some information may be available via branch libraries, most materials are only available in the Reference Section. Furthermore, the staff in the Reference Section receives specialized training and is more knowledgeable in answering intellectual property questions. Experienced searchers who do not require special guidance may perform searches on the Internet at any library location or from home.
3. Can I use the Internet to do a patent or trademark search?

Yes. Patent searching is possible on the Internet. However, the searcher must be aware that Internet searching may be complicated for novice searchers. Also, keyword searching is not recommended as many potentially relevant patents may be missed using this method. Searchers should visit a Patent and Trademark Resource Center for information regarding the USPTO's recommended search steps. Trademarks may also be searched (within specified date ranges) at the USPTO website. Common law searching may also be performed on the Internet. Searchers should search as many sites as possible to account for common law usage.

For further instructions, please see the sections on searching for patents or trademarks.


1.  Will the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or staff at a PTRC conduct a patent search for me?

No. Staff in the USPTO's Public Search Facility or at a PTRC will assist you with your search by providing you guidance regarding the procedure, but they will not do the search for you. Staff will also be able to assist you if you need information on a specific patent number or other basic information.

2.  How long will it take to conduct a patent search?

The time it takes to conduct a patent search varies depending on the searcher, the type of invention, the number of patents issued similar to the invention, etc. Staff in the Reference Section has had a few searchers complete searches in about two hours, but the reason in these cases was that the exact invention had been patented recently, and so it was found quickly. More typically, staff has seen searchers return just about every day for 2-3 weeks when they require the library’s facilities to complete the search.

3.  What do the terms "patent pending" and "patent applied for" mean?

They are used by a manufacturer or seller of an article to inform the public that an application for patent on that article is on file in the Patent and Trademark Office. The application may be either a regular, non-provisional application or a provisional application.

4.  Is there any danger that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will give others information contained in my application while it is pending?

No. All patent applications are maintained in the strictest secrecy until the patent is issued or the application is published if it is subject to the pre-grant publication at 18 months requirement. After the patent is issued, however, the Office file containing the application and all correspondence leading up to issuance of the patent is made available in the Files Information Room for inspection by anyone and copies of these files may be purchased from the Office. Also, some or all of the portions that are considered public information may be made available online at the USPTO website.

5.  Will the Patent and Trademark Office or staff at a PTRC help me to select a patent attorney or agent to make my patent search or to prepare and prosecute my patent application?

No. The Office or PTRC staff cannot make this choice for you. However, your own friends, general attorney, or local inventors' organization may help you in making a selection from among those listed as registered practitioners on the USPTO roster. Also, some bar associations operate lawyer referral services that maintain lists of patent lawyers available to accept new clients.


1. Do I need to search for conflicting marks?

Although USPTO does not require an applicant to conduct a search for conflicting marks before filing an application, performing a good search can be useful. One reason for doing a search is that the application fee is not refundable if a conflicting mark is identified. The examining trademark attorney at the Patent and Trademark Office will conduct a search for conflicting Federal registered and pending marks and inform the applicant if any are found. Another reason for doing a search is that not all marks are registered or pending with the USPTO, since many marks are used either with State registrations or without registration. A search including a wide variety of resources, would help to identify potentially conflicting marks from among these.

2.  How long does a trademark last?

A trademark term is 10 years. If the owner continues to use the mark to identify its goods or services and files the appropriate paperwork between the fifth and sixth year after registration, and renews the trademark between the ninth and tenth year and then every ten years after that, trademark rights can last indefinitely.

3.  What type of application do I need?

Applications may be filed either based on use (already using the mark in commerce) or based on intent to use. International applicants may file based on their application or registration in another country. Also, there are three formats for filing applications with a sliding fee schedule based on the degree to which the application is automated.
Please see Basic Facts about Trademarks and the USPTO web site for further information.

4.  Will the Patent and Trademark Office or staff at a PTRC conduct a trademark search for me?

Generally, no. The Patent and Trademark Office will not conduct a search for conflicting marks nor will most PTRCs. For further information on how a PTRC can assist you contact the PTRC nearest you.


1.  How long does copyright protection last?

Copyright protection generally is good for the life of the author/creator plus 70 years for works created on or after January 1, 1978. For other copyright durations, please see Copyright Basics (PDF).

2.  Do I have to register my copyright?

No. However, there are a number of advantages to registering your copyright. Two advantages are: your registration is a matter of public record and in cases of infringement, the copyright must be registered in order to file for infringement in Federal court.

3.  What copyright application should I use?

Which form you use depends on the work you have created. There are five basic application forms: PA, SE, SR, TX, and VA. Each of these provides protection for different types of creations:

  • PA for published and unpublished works of the performing arts (musical and dramatic works, pantomimes and choreographic works, motion pictures and other audiovisual works)
  • SE for serials, works issued or intended to be issued in successive parts bearing numerical or chronological designations and intended to be continued indefinitely (periodicals, newspapers, magazines, newsletters, annuals, journals, etc.)
  • SR for published and unpublished sound recordings
  • TX for published and unpublished nondramatic literary works
  • VA for published and unpublished works of the visual arts (pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works, including architectural work)

Although the U.S. Copyright Office is encouraging electronic filing of copyright registrations through their eCo system, there are also other registration alternatives. These include paper forms that can be downloaded online, filled out, and mailed; a downloadable fill-in Form CO, which replaces Forms TX, VA, PA, SE, and SR, and uses 2-D barcode scanning technology. Information regarding application forms is available at U.S. Copyright Office Forms.

What is a Patent and Trademark Resource Center?

A Patent and Trademark Depository Library (PTRC) is a library designated by the US Patent and Trademark Office to receive and house copies of US patents and patent and trademark materials, to make them freely available to the public, and to disseminate actively both patent and trademark information.

Trained staff is available to assist anyone who needs to research the novelty of an invention or of a trademark. Staff will be glad to help with the use of any materials provided to the library by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office; however, staff will not perform patent or trademark searches, nor offer advice, interpretation, or opinion regarding the patentability of an invention or the registrability of a mark.

PTRCs are located in nearly all 50 states and in Puerto Rico, including three in the state of Florida. Because hours of operation and scope of collections may vary, please call in advance before visiting a PTRC. The three in Florida are:

Fort Lauderdale: Broward County Main Library, 954-357-7444

Miami: Miami-Dade Public Library, 305-375-2665

Orlando: University of Central Florida Libraries, 407-823-2562

A complete listing of Patent and Trademark Resource Centers nationwide. 

Please send your questions and comments about these sites and suggestions for other sites to

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