Spotlight On…   Patents

Edison patent
  • Are you curious about inventions and the people who invented them?
  • Do you have an idea for a new invention?
  • Would you like to find out if anyone else has a patent on your invention?
  • Are you looking for ways to move your invention into the marketplace?
  • Has someone in your family received a patent for an invention in the past?

The Library can help you answer all of these questions. As a member of the Patent and Trademark Depository Library program, the Information and Reference Department has a full collection of U.S. patents and all the tools you need to do a patent search. In addition, you will find information and advice on marketing new products in the department.

To find out more about patents, visit the Information and Reference Department at the Main Library or visit the patent websites on our Government Resources page. You may also want to attend PatentQuest, a free program offered regularly at the Main Library every other month. For information on the next program date and registration, check the Government Resources page.

Interested in locating information about local inventors? The Cincinnati Inventors Database indexes U.S. patents issued to inventors in Cincinnati and Hamilton County from 1814 to 1873. You can search for early Queen City inventors or inventions by keyword or browse by inventor or invention name. The database listings provide patent links directly to the USPTO website.

The Library also hosts the meetings of the Inventors’ Council of Cincinnati on the first Tuesday of each month at 7:00 at the Main Library. The meetings are free and open to the public. For more information, call the department at 513-369-6900 or the Inventors’ Council at 513-831-0664.


Patent document with red ribbon
What is a patent?
A patent is a legal document that gives an inventor the right to exclude anyone else from making, using, or selling an invention for a specific period of time, usually 20 years.
Why does the government grant patents?
The purpose of patents is to make public recent scientific discoveries that promote the development of new technology and new products. When America was founded, the fledgling government followed the British practice of granting patents to spur the economic growth of the country. The right to patent is guaranteed by Article 1, Section 8, of the U.S. Constitution.
Who uses the patent collection?
People use the patent collection for a variety of reasons. It is searched by
  • Inventors to explore what has already been patented in their area
  • Genealogists to locate inventions related to their family histories
  • Students to study the history of invention and inventors
  • Researchers to analyze the connection between patents and social history
  • Marketing firms to identify areas for new product development
What kinds of inventions can be patented?
An invention qualifies for a patent if it is new and non-obvious. ‘New’ means that some aspect of the invention is a substantially novel development, never before patented. ‘Non-obvious’ means that the development is unexpected or surprising, one that would not be obvious to someone who is an expert in the field of invention. Many types of inventions have received patents, including bicycle parts, jewelry designs, computer hardware, chemical formulas, musical instruments, magic tricks, and board games. Browsing the patent collection is a good way to explore inventions that have received patents.
How is a patent different from a copyright or trademark?
A copyright protects original artistic, dramatic, musical or literary works. It is intended to cover creative expression as it is embodied in a tangible medium (such as a book, an audiotape, or a film), not just as an idea or concept. The time of coverage varies, but a copyright often can last for 100 years. Copyrights are registered with the Library of Congress.
A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, design, packaging, or sound that is used in business to identify the source of a product or service. Trademarks must be in continuous use to be protected and protection can last indefinitely. Trademarks may be registered nationally with the Patent and Trademark Office. Business names may also be registered in individual states; in Ohio, registration is through the Secretary of State’s office. For more information on trademarks, consult our brochure, Guide to Resources for Trademark Searching.
How do you get a patent?
Patents are granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Washington, D.C. Each patent application is examined by someone knowledgeable in the field of invention. An initial filing fee is required, as well as additional fees when the patent is granted and renewed. There are no fill-in application forms; the document is drawn up much like a will, with specific sections that must be included. Guidelines are available in the Information and Reference Department and online at the U.S. Patent Office website.
PTO Logo
I have a new invention. Why do I need to do a patent search?
An invention can only be patented once. If someone else has already been granted a patent on your invention, your application will be denied… and your application fees will not be returned. A good patent search shows you what else has already been invented in your field.
Can I do a patent search online?
All of the tools for patent searching are now on the web, but often our print resources are easier to use, especially at the beginning of the search. Using search tools correctly requires some orientation to their content and organization. The Government and Business Department staff will be happy to help you get started. Consider attending our PatentQuest program for a thorough introduction to patents and patent searching. A 7-Step Strategy for performing a prelimnary patent search is available from the USPTO.