1. Invention Patent Search
2. Importance of Invention Patent Search
3. A Patent Search Tutorial

Updated October 27,2020:

Invention patent search is a process that precedes filing a patent application. It's done to find out whether someone else already holds a patent for your invention.

Invention patent search helps in:

  • finding inventions that are similar to your invention and can affect the way your patent is drafted
  • avoiding legal costs of making changes in your patent application if an already existing patent affects your application

In order to be eligible for a patent your invention must be new and unique, something unobvious that has not existed in the past. You cannot claim something as your invention if it was in the domain of public information at any point in time. Whether it's already patented or not doesn't matter.

If your invention is an improvement on an existing product, the improvement must be substantially unique; it should not be something that could have easily occurred to the designers of the product. Thus, the main reason for conducting a patent search is to discover whether a patent already exists for your invention, or find out if the improvement you made is not unique enough. 

A patent search is only one way of discovering whether your invention can be considered prior art. Many unpatented inventions sold in chain stores may also be considered prior art. Even an article in a journal or an exhibit in a trade show can be used to counter your claim of novelty.

When you conduct a patent search, the searcher sends you a list of patents that may affect your claim of novelty. Some of these patents may be quite similar to your invention, but most of them will be for inventions that serve the same purpose. In either case, these existing patents are the dominant prior arts that may affect your application.

Patent examiners are busy, and they do not have time to look into all the periodicals that may pertain to your invention. You can order a more comprehensive search at a higher cost. However, it's often cheaper to go with the standard search and amend your application later if the patent examiner discovers a relevant prior art.

A patent gives you monopoly to use your invention for 20 years from the date you filed the patent application. How much you can earn from your patent depends upon how well you make use of this monopoly.

Many times, a patent exists but the product is not available on the market. This can be due to reasons such as the product being too advanced for its time, the inventor dumping the project due to lack of funds, or the inventor simply not having enough stamina to see the project through.

Your first application is critical, and a patent search makes it substantially stronger. Every detail of your invention must be disclosed, and filing a patent search gives you the tools to focus on the most patentable features in your disclosure. 

A Patent Search Tutorial

In order to cut costs, you may want to do your own patent search. This is a smart move, but you must be careful. You will likely miss a number of things a professional could discover. Here are some tips:

  • Spend some time familiarizing yourself with prior art. 
  • Learn about professional strategies and free tools to aid you.
  • Take a look at USPTO's search page. It contains a database of U.S. patents from 1976 on, and patent applications since March 2001. You can also conduct bibliographic searches for patents back to 1790.
  • Free Patents Online is another excellent tool. You can find PDF files here, making it easier to see images.
  • If you find any existing patent on the USPTO site, make sure you check it out on Free Patents Online as well.
  • Google offers a faster patent search but has fewer search parameters. It's best for a wider, initial search. As you narrow down, move on to the USPTO site.
  • Remember that Google Patent Search database contains some loopholes. Also, the latest patents are not often available. However, it covers patents dating back to 1790s, when the first patent was granted. It makes it a good source for searching old references.

If you need help with invention patent search, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.