Patents & Trademarks

Patents & Trademark at K-State

Like copyright, patents are a form of intellectual property. Inventions are protected by patents, which grant the inventor a license and a set of exclusive rights for a limited period of time.

  • Exclusive rights include the sole right to make, use, and sell the invention or technology.

Using K-State Powercat and Other K-State Logos

K-State Trademark Licensing protects and promotes the names, marks, and logos of Kansas State University, such as the K-State Powercat and Willy the Wildcat.

If you are looking to use the any K-state marketing , such as printing logos with T-shirt manufacturer or creating a public sign, you will either need to apply to become a licensee for K-State trademark promotion/apparel or seek permission from the K-State Trademark Licensing office.

You can fill out the license application if you are interested in using any of the K-State marks or logos for any reason.

You can find out more by reading the office's FAQ.

K-State Research Foundation

Kansas State University has an active program to facilitate technology licensing and transfer (commercialization) of intellectual property developed by University faculty. You may contact the foundation if you believe you have a patentable invention.

K-State Patent Holders

Search Kansas State University's current patent portfolio. This includes over 1,000 diverse patents comprised of valuable technologies ranging from neutron detectors to wheat varieties to nanomaterials.

United States Trademark Law

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office allows you to apply for a patent on an invention or to register a trademark.

Trademarks, like copyrights and patents, are another form of intellectual property. Trademarks are recognizable and can be signs, designs, expressions, words, or symbols that help identify products and services to others in order to distinguish those services and products from others. StarbucksĀ® coffee is an example of a trademarked name. Trademarks must be distinctive and used in commerce. For non-use of a trademark over three consecutive years without adequate control or supervision or from the trademark becoming generic, trademark rights can be lost.

Trademark and the Public Domain is an informative page on the Public Domain Sherpa website that offers insight into reusing works that are in the public domain (or whose copyrights have expired) yet include a trademark. Essentially, what it comes down to is how you use the trademark. To commit trademark infringement, you would have to use the trademark commercially and/or potentially confuse consumers regarding the identity of a product or service.

Trademarks and Fair Use is a section of the fair use page that discusses descriptive and nominative fair use within U.S. trademark law. If you are using a trademark within your own work, you will need to determine if your use falls under one of these types of fair uses. Trademarks usually have both copyright and trademark protection; however, since trademark law is stricter than copyright law, if your use falls within trademark fair use, it likely also falls within copyright fair use.

Use of Trademarked Logos

If you are using a trademarked logo, design, or name, you may have already determined that your use of the image or name is fair use under U.S. copyright law, but you will also need to consider whether it is fair use under U.S. trademark law. There are two types of trademark fair use:

Descriptive Fair Use of Trademarks:

Use is permitted when using another's trademark to describe the user's products or services. For example, the trademark BREATHE BETTER LIVE BETTERĀ® could be used to describe a health care program:

"XYZ Asthma Therapy Center provides therapies that can help you control your asthma and so you can breathe better and live better." (Source:

Nominative Fair use of Trademarks:

Use is permitted when referring to the trademark owner's goods or services. For example, you could refer to "the famous Seattle-based coffee shop chain," but it would be much more practical to simply refer to the company by its name, StarbucksĀ®. This is a case that falls within nominative fair use.

If you are still uncertain, especially if you are using an image that represents the trademark, here are the factors to consider:

  • The product or service in question is not readily identifiable without use of the trademark;
  • Or only so much of the mark as is reasonably necessary to identify the product or service is used, and;
  • Use of the mark does not suggest sponsorship or endorsement by the trademark owner.
    Source: International Trademark Association.

Essentially, if you are not using the trademark to sell or promote an actual good or service and your use does not confuse individuals with a good or service, your use could be considered fair use.

However, "promoting or selling an actual service or good" is often misunderstood. You may not be making any money by using the trademark, but it could be considered promotional, and thus, it could be considered trademark infringement.