Trademarks - are words, names, symbols, devices, and/or use images, which are applied to products or used in connection with goods or services to identify their source. More information on trademarks

Copyrights - protect the expression of ideas in literary, artistic and musical works. More information on copyrights.

Do I need to hire a lawyer or agent?
The patent application process is complex. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will not assist you in the preparation of patent application papers. If you are ready to apply for a patent, you are strongly advised to contact a registered patent attorney or agent. 

Only registered attorneys and agents may help others to obtain patents. 

Patent Attorneys
Patent lawyers and agents, a recommended directory and advice on how to select the right patent attorney or agent. 

If you are ready to apply to register your trademark, you are also advised to contact an attorney who is experienced in trademark prosecution. An attorney who is a member in good standing of a state bar association may prosecute your application for trademark registration. 

You could pursue patent and trademarks matters without a lawyer, however, since this is a page for beginners it is unlikely that you could do so successfully.

What is the role of the USPTO?
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) administers the patent and trademark laws as they relate to the granting of patents for utility inventions, designs and plants and the issuing of trademark registrations. 

The USPTO examines applications for patents to determine if the applicants are entitled to patents  and grants the patents when they are so entitled. 

It examines applications for trademark registration to determine if the applicants are entitled to register their trademarks and issues trademark registrations.

The USPTO publishes issued patents, approved trademark registrations and various publications concerning patents and trademarks; records assignments of patents and trademarks; and maintains search rooms and a national network of Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries for the use by the public to study issued patents, registered trademarks, and pending trademark applications and records relating to both patents and trademarks.

It also supplies copies of records and other papers . 

What free assistance is available from the USPTO?
Free basic information on the patent and trademark system, forms, fees, products and services of the USPTO is available by calling the USPTO’s toll-free line, 800-PTO-9199 or by calling 703-308-HELP.

An automated message system is available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day providing informational responses to frequently asked questions and the ability to order certain free documents. 

Customer service representatives are available to answer questions, send free materials or connect you with other offices of the USPTO from 8:30 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. ET, Monday-Friday excluding federal holidays.

Where do I find local assistance?
Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries (PTDLs) are a nationwide network of public, state and academic libraries that are designated to disseminate patent and trademark information and to support the diverse intellectual property needs of the public. Using the collections of a PTDL with the help of a trained librarian, you may be able to determine if someone else has already patented your invention or obtained a federal registration for a trademark on goods or services similar to that you are seeking to use. These specialized librarians may also help you with specific questions regarding the patent and trademark processes, but they will not provide legal advice. These libraries contain collections of all types of patents issued in the US for at least the past twenty years (some PTDLs have US patents back to 1790). They also have facsimile images on CD of federal trademark registration certificates from 1870 to the present. The PTDLs have CD-ROM databases containing bibliographic information on registered trademarks and marks in pending applications. The PTDLs have other CD-ROM products that allow you to search U.S. patents and trademarks.

Patent Attorneys
Patent lawyers and agents, a recommended directory and advice on how to select the right patent attorney or agent. 

Inventor Organizations
Inventor support organizations and invention clubs. These are local groups that you can join and find support. This is a fantastic way for a new inventor to learn more about the process of inventing.

How do I finance and/or market my invention?
The Small Business Administration (SBA) provides excellent information on starting, planning, marketing, obtaining venture capital and financing a small business. The SBA also provides training and counseling.

Small Business Administration (SBA)
Local SBA Resources
List of Small Business Development Center

Invention Funding
Obtaining government grants, small business loans, scholarships and other programs to fund your inventions.

Invention Promoters / Promotion Firms? 
Before making commitments to invention promoters/promotion firms, you should check on the reputation of invention promoters/promotion firms before making any commitments. Remember, not all invention promoters/promotion firms are legitimate. It's best to be wary of any firm that promises too much and/or costs too much. 

Invention Promotion Firms & Avoiding Scams
Many inventors pay thousands of dollars to firms that promise to evaluate, develop, patent, and market inventions... and then do little or nothing for their fees. 

How To Avoid An Invention Company Scam
If all you have of your invention is an idea, don't ever take the easy way out and think an invention company is going to do everything for you. Many of these companies are not the real deal. Avoid getting ripped off. 

Consumer Protection
The FTC also provides other services and information at their site about business venture and investment frauds. 

Required information disclosure from invention promoters/promotion firms.

If you decide to use the services of an invention promoter/promotion firm, keep in mind that the firm must disclose specific information to you regarding their past business practices. This mandatory disclosure is required by law and is intended to help you make an informed decision whether or not the firm will meet your needs.

Specifically, before an invention promotion contract can be established between you and the firm, each invention promotion firm must disclose to you in writing each of the following items of information:

(1) The total number of inventions evaluated by the invention promoter for commercial potential in the past 5 years, as well as the number of those inventions that received positive evaluations, and the number of those inventions that received negative evaluations

In other words, how much experience does the promoter have? What is their track record? Do they generally give mostly positive or negative evaluations, or is there a balance between their positive and negative evaluation history? 

(2) The total number of customers who have contracted with the invention promoter in the past 5 years, not including customers who have purchased trade show services, research, advertising, or other nonmarketing services from the invention promoter, or who have defaulted in their payment to the invention promoter

This information will give you an idea of just how experienced the promoter or firm is and the volume of services they provide. 

(3) The total number of customers known by the invention promoter to have received a net financial profit as a direct result of the invention promotion services provided by such invention promoter

What financial impact, if any, has the promoter or firm actually made to its customers? 

(4) The total number of customers known by the invention promoter to have received license agreements for their inventions as a direct result of the invention promotion services provided by such invention promoter

Like item (3) above, this information will also enable you to gauge the effectiveness of the firm in evaluating its direct impact on its customers. Note the key words in the last two requirements--"…as a direct result of the invention promotion services provided by such invention promoter". Be aware that just because a license agreement was eventually secured for a given invention does not necessarily mean that it was a "direct result" of the promotion activities of the firm. 

(5) The names and addresses of all previous invention promotion companies with which the invention promoter or its officers have collectively or individually been affiliated in the previous 10 years

This information will help you to know the history of the promoter or firm, even if the promoter changes firms or the firm changes its name.