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Patents and Trademarks: Patents & Trademarks as Social Sciences Resources

The Ryan-Matura Library is a United States Patent and Trademark Resource Center (PTRC) of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Using Patents in Your Research

Need to know?

Intellectual Property Rights Constitutional Law ♦ Legal History Threat Protection ♦ Legal Research ♦ Local History ♦ Inventors  ♦ Social Progress  Cultures and Diversity

Historical Patents

Connecticut State Museum Patents Project - A database of patents issued to residents of the state of Connecticut, ranging from 1800 through 1890, searchable by invention, inventor, year, town, patent number, and a classification code (different from that used by the USPTO). 

Invention and the Patent Model - online exhibition of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Rothschild Petersen Patent Model Museum - describes the philanthropic work of Alan and Anne Rothschild to locate and collect patent models from the 18th and 19th centuries. This site includes tools to search by inventor, view original patents, and more. Their collection is now housed at the Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, DE..

Cooper-Hewitt Museum - design artifacts and research.

Historic Intellectual Property (Russ Allen) - privately developed databases of patent (utility, plant, design) and trademark information with focus on historical records.

Directory of American Tool and Machinery Patents (Russ Allen) - privately developed database of over 54,000 tool and machinery patents from 1790 to 2013, searchable by inventor, company, and invention type, as well as USPTO classification. These include agricultural, industrial, and household tools and machines, creating a valuable portal to older patents outside the 1976-present full-text-searchable databases of the USPTO.

Significant Historical U.S. Patents ( - collection of basic information about dozens famous U.S. patents from 1790 to 1964. 

Records of the Patent and Trademark Office (NARA) - U.S. National Archives and Records Administration guide to accessing official records of the USPTO.

Patents of Invention - Guide to locating and accessing records of U.K. patents (includes Ireland and Scotland) issued from 1617 to 1852.

Historical, Regional, and Specialized Patent Collections (PTRCA) - directory of websites focusing on historical patents.

The USPTO Historical Patent Data Files: Two Centuries of Innovation / by Alan C. Marco, Marco Carley, Steven Jackson, and Amanda F. Myers (2015) - Research paper downloadable via SSRN.T

List of All Known Patents Issued by the Confederate Patent Office - online reprint of Appendix from The Patent Office Pony.

Digest of United States Automobile Patents from 1789 to July 1, 1899, Volume 2, by James Titus Allen. Digitized by Google Books, free e-book.


A Digest of Patents Issued by the United States from 1790 to January 1, 1839, by Henry L. Ellsworth, Comm'r. of Patents. Digitized by Google Books, free e-book.

Law School IP Programs

Intellectual property law is part of the basic curriculum in law school. Some law schools offer focused IP law programs, included advanced degrees and certificates. Patent lawyers typically have degrees or experience in the sciences or engineering. As with all legal study, however, writing and critical thinking skills are critical to success. Some of those programs are listed below:

Franklin Pierce Center for IP (UNH Law School)

The Center for Intellectual Property, Information, and Privacy Law (John Marshall Law School)

IP in the Social Sciences Journal Databases

In addition to books on inventors and inventing, you may find useful information in journal articles about specific individuals and patents, as well as the legal and social history of intellectual property. 

Among Sacred Heart University's "Best Bets" subscription journal databases for this information, consider:

Academic Search Premier

Academic OneFile

Criminal Justice Abstracts

CQ Researcher


History Reference Center

Historical Abstracts


Legal Information Reference Center


Project Muse


Some useful initial SUBJECT search terms: invention*, inventor*,  patent*, creativity, intellectual property,technological innovations, trademark*, intangible property, theft, progress, intellectual capital

Modern American Inventive History - Background & Research

Early American Inventive History - Background & Research