Introduction to Patents


Welcome to the Patent Basics micro-course. My name is Dave Bloom, and I’m the Patent and Trademark Resource Center representative for the University of Wisconsin–Madison Libraries. Patents are one of the main forms of intellectual property protection available in the United States and throughout the world. Patents can protect innovative products and processes, ornamental designs, and even plants. However, this protection is part of an exchange. The US Patent and Trademark Office and other patent granting entities provide patent holders the right to exclude others from making and selling an invention only on the condition that applicants disclose their invention as completely as possible. The designs for these inventions then become public and can be valuable information resources, not only for people who may be interested in patenting something of their own, but for inventors, entrepreneurs, and researchers of all kinds. This micro-course will cover patents as both exclusive rights and information resources. It includes information on what is and is not patentable, the patent application process, the parts of a patent document, conducting a successful patent search, and where to find more help. I hope you’ll find this information useful in your studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.


Patents are an important form of intellectual property protection, covering innovative products and processes, ornamental designs, and plants. A patent provides a limited-term exclusive right to produce and market an invention in exchange for detailed information about that invention.

This micro-course covers patents both as legal phenomenon and invaluable information resource, valuable for entrepreneurs, designers, and researchers of many kinds.

Learning Objectives

By completing this course, you will be able to:

  1. Understand the value and purpose of patents
  2. Understand the patent process
  3. Recognize the parts of a patent document and their significance
  4. Identify strategies and resources appropriate for patent searching
  5. Refer to additional resources for help, including experts, micro-courses, research guides, and more