Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights

Patent and Trademark Resource Center logoWelcome to the Broward County Main Library Information Services 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 Information Services 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 Information Services 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 some cases, overlaps in protection, they are different and serve different purposes. The following provides some brief descriptions of each:

Patent: "A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office." Patents allow inventors to exclude others from making, using, or selling their invention. For more information, please visit General Information Concerning Patents or view the PDF.

Trademark: 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 please visit Trademark Basics and Basic Facts about Trademarks (disponible en Español con la edición titulada Protegiendo su Marca).

Copyright: A form of intellectual property that protects the writings of an author against copying. Literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works are included. Copyright protects the form of expression rather than the subject matter of the writing. For more information please visit Copyright Basics.

For more information on differentiating among these forms of intellectual property please read Trademark, Patent, or Copyright?

The following types of information are available in the Information Services Section:

  • General patent, trademark, and copyright information
  • How to determine the patentability of a new idea using available resources; however, staff cannot give advice or opinion on patentability
  • How to conduct patent or trademark searches
  • How to prepare a patent, trademark, or copyright application.  Although staff cannot give advice or opinion on specific application related questions, there’s a service available to pro-se patent applicants whereby they can get procedural and administrative assistance with their patent application. This service is the Virtual Assistance Pilot Program.

Highlighted Service:  Virtual Assistance Pilot Program – Attention Pro-Se Inventors

The Office of Innovation Development of the USPTO is working with the Patent and Trademark Resource Center at the Broward County Main Library to provide greater availability to those needing assistance with the Patent Process by allowing individuals to set up appointments to speak with examiners directly at USPTO by means of the Virtual Assistance Pilot Program. This is a videoconference meeting which requires in person presence at the Broward County Main Library. Information on a variety of topics relating to patents and assistance with USPTO administrative and procedural matters will be provided by USPTO staff during the meeting, however, no legal advice will be given. Examples of assistance include reviewing provisional and nonprovisional patent applications for proper form prior to filing and assistance with procedures related to patent application prosecution.  The Virtual Assistance Pilot Program extends the services that our Patent and Trademark Resource Center has provided in the past. 

Requests may be made for Virtual Assistance appointments to be scheduled during the following times: Tuesdays and Wednesdays 1-3PM, as well as Thursdays 10AM-Noon and 1-3PM, with at least two business days’ notice. Meetings may be for one or two hours as needed, and there is no limit to the number of meetings that may be requested over time, as these are on an as needed basis. Scheduling of appointments are mediated by PTRC librarian or designated backup. To participate, please ask at the 5th floor Reference desk or call 954-357-7439 for details. A Virtual Assistance Pilot Program Inventor Checklist is available to participants to provide guidance on general requirements, some necessary commonly used items, as well as recommended online basic training.


For additional information about this program from the USPTO, please use the following links:

Useful links for those interested in the Virtual Assistance Pilot program:


Links to USPTO monthly patent related programs

The USPTO conducts two monthly chat programs related to patent information of interest to independent inventors.  The format for these live programs consists of approximately a half-hour presentation followed by a half-hour question and answer session.  An email address is provided for each for questions to be submitted to the USPTO.  These programs (click on program title to access page), along with the corresponding regular scheduled times and emails for asking questions are:

Although they are freely available online, these USPTO programs are also simulcast live at the Broward County Main Library’s Creation Station Business (CSB) for those interested in viewing them at the library.

*If interested in attending, please check the USPTO website links provided above to verify program title as well as program date/time, as there have been some exceptions to the regularly scheduled times.  The USPTO also archives past programs at those website links.

For more information please call the Creation Station Business at 954-357-7418 and/or the Reference Desk at 954-357-7439.



The materials listed below are available in the Information Services Section (via print, microform, or electronic resources, including online): 

  • Patents 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 (The USPC has been superseded by the Cooperative Patent Classification for utility patents)
  • Index to the U.S. Patent Classification System (The USPC has been superseded by the Cooperative Patent Classification for utility patents)
  • Manual of Classification (The USPC has been superseded by the Cooperative Patent Classification for utility patents)


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


  • Code of Federal Regulations, Title 37
  • Copyright Circulars
    The Information Services Section also has many related books, government reports and documents, and other information relating to patents, trademarks and copyrights. Please ask staff for assistance.

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U.S. Copyright Office Publications on copyright basics, copyright registration, and copyright registration searching.  Information regarding copyright forms is available at

U.S. Copyright Office Forms, and information regarding copyright registration is available at the Registration Portal.

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 Information Services Section are reference, but some materials may be available on the fourth floor in the circulating collection and/or at other branch locations. Please ask a staff member for assistance.

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, Information Services Section (5th floor). Although some information may be available via branch libraries, most materials are only available in the Information Services Section at the Main Library. Furthermore, the staff in the Information Services 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.  Please note that staff is available to provide guidance in the use of library materials and official Internet resources, but will not perform a patent or a trademark search nor offer advice, interpretation, or opinion regarding the patentability of an invention or registrability of a trademark.

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 trademark searching may also be performed on the Internet. Searchers should search as many sites as possible to account for common law usage of trademarks.

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. However, if you have difficulty with your patent search and would like some help, you can request a videoconference with someone from the USPTO via the Virtual Assistance Pilot Program at the Broward County Main Library.  Their office can assist with connecting inventors to an examiner in the area they are trying to search.  The examiner can then provide them with CPC symbols to search.  It would not be a comprehensive search strategy, but more of a high level of where to start.  However, they are not able to provide legal advice.

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 Information Services 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 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 assist me with my patent? No. The Office or PTRC staff cannot make this choice for you. However, your general attorney 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, but there may be a fee for the service.

6.  Will the Patent and Trademark Office or staff at a PTRC help me to prepare, review, file, and prosecute my patent application? Staff a PTRC cannot assist with preparing, reviewing, filing, and prosecuting patent applications.  However, the Broward County Main Library offers the Virtual Assistance Pilot Program, mentioned above, whereby patent applicants can meet with USPTO staff via videoconference at the Broward County Main Library to discuss the specifics of their applications and get procedural and administrative assistance with preparing, reviewing, filing, and prosecuting patent applications.  However, they are not able to provide legal advice.


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 regulated by the U.S. Congress) or based on intent to use. International applicants may file based on their application or registration in another country. Also, there are three methods 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.  If you still need advice on selecting the kind of application, you will need to contact a trademark attorney for assistance.  Also, the Trademark Information Network (TMIN) videos and the TEAS Nuts and Bolts videos can be of great help.

4.  Will the Patent and Trademark Office or staff at a PTRC conduct a trademark search for me? No. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will not conduct a search for conflicting marks nor will the 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).  Also, please see the page Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States from Cornell University.

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. For other advantages to registration, please see Copyright Basics (PDF).

3.  What copyright application should I use? If filing electronically via Electronic Copyright Office (eCO), there are no separate forms from which to choose, just one electronic filing system designed to handle all.  More information is available at the Copyright Office Registration Portal. An advantage to electronic filing is the lower filing fee as compared to paper filing. If filing in paper, 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)

Additional information regarding application forms is available at U.S. Copyright Office Forms.


What is a Patent and Trademark Resource Center?

A Patent and Trademark Resource Center (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.

The approximately 80 PTRCs nationwide 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