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Intellectual Property Law

This guide outlines sources for intellectual property law research--patents, copyrights, and trademarks.

What Is in this Guide?

Intellectual Property Law Research 

Getting started with intellectual property law research can be hard. Intellectual property--broadly defined as creations of the mind that come in the form of creative works, inventions or marks--is protected by a collection of overlapping legal regimes that includes Patent, Copyright, and Trademark. This guide focuses primarily on US law, with an additional page for international materials. It's intended to give a very basic introduction to research in this area, covering how to find the law and how to find documentation about IP assets through registration records and similar tools.  

Fig 1., U.S. Patent #6,125,478


This guide highlights some of the best and most frequently used IP-resources available to the UNC Law community. It does not provide an exhaustive review of UNC Law's IP collection.

Many of the sources cited in this guide are freely available to anyone, online. Many others require UNC or UNC Law affiliation, sometimes in combination with a separate username and password for access to databases such as Westlaw, Lexis+, and Bloomberg Law. If you are a UNC Law faculty, student, or staff and do not have access to these databases, please contact

There are also a number of databases that address intellectual property issues generally. Some of the most useful include:

  • Bloomberg Law Practice Centers (accessible to UNC Law Community with username/password), provides access to practice pages on Patent, Trademark, Copyright, Trade Secrets, Privacy, Data Security, and Tech & Telecom that include specialized treatises, practice guides, email current-awareness tools, access to specialized search tools for finding registrations for patents and trademarks, and a full collection of primary law, including relevant statutes, case law, regulations, and decisions from administrative divisions of the USPTO and the International Trade Commission.
  • HeinOnline Intellectual Property Law Collection (available to UNC Community) provides access to  legislative histories, treatises, documents, classics, and more relating to copyrights, patents, and trademarks, this collection allows researchers to search across all intellectual property law materials in one database. Notable titles include: Legislative History of the 1909 Copyright Act (1976), Kamenstein Legislative History Project: A Compendium and Analytical Index of Materials Leading to the Copyright Act of 1976, and William Robinson's Law of Patents for Useful Inventions. Also includes copies of the relevant statutory and regulatory titles.  
  • VitalLaw - Intellectual Property (available to UNC community) provides content organized by topic (copyright, trademark & advertising, patent & trade secrets, and technology & internet) as well as expert analysis and treatises and news and blogs. Content is also organized into relevant cases and acts and statutes.