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EMET 403: Electromechanical Design Project Preparation

Professor Craig Brennecke


As a Patent and Trademark Resource Center (PTRC), the Pennsylvania State University Libraries has a mission to support both our students and the public with finding patent and trademark information along with locating application materials.

Patent law is very important in design and engineering because patents can tell you if someone else already has a claim on a product design.

  • Please note that while PhD students must always assign patent licenses to Penn State, undergraduate students typically do not!
    • The only exception is if a student receives compensation for their research by Penn State.

Where do you start?

Always begin with a "prior art" search by exploring different databases to find out whether someone else has already described an idea similar to yours:

  1. Explore engineering and business databases to find what's already out there related to your design and the market landscape.
  2. Explore patent applications and issued patents in the official database of the US Patent and Trademark Office.
    1. Full text searching from 1976 to the present and limited searching back to 1790.
  3. Explore patent applications and issued patents in Google Patents.
    1. Imported and scanned patents from the U.S. and several other countries. Only full text search for pre-1976 U.S. patents.

Searching patents is an art unto itself. Explore this research guide designed by the University Libraries PTRC Librarian to learn more:

Pro Bono Assistance

The Penn State Law Intellectual Property Clinic provides pro bono (free) intellectual property (IP) counseling services to Pennsylvania individuals, startups, and small businesses with limited financial resources. IP includes patents, trademarks, copyright, and trade secrets.

  • Contact: Andrew Sherman, J.D.,

Pro Se Assistance

The Office of Innovation Development of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office provides Pro Se (in one's own behalf) assistance and resources for inventors filing for a patent without the help of an attorney or agent.