Recently I saw that a local inventor group was suggesting that they could teach you to do your own patent search and that somehow this would be enough to base your financial future on.
While I agree that learning to search and building your own version of a prototype, if you can, is a good exercise for every inventor, I believe that you will reach a point when you do need a professional to take another look. Why?
1. Most inventors see their inventions too narrowly.
2. There is a time value for your time. It takes days to do a good search. Most inventors have a day job. For the dollars spent on the search, your time is more valuable.
3. All of the business decisions you will make are based on what comes back in the search report. Because of that, you need a good professional search.
4. A good search includes a USPTO search, international search, and a product search. A good USPTO search is done by classification not by keywords. Most inventors only do a keyword search.
5. If paying $500 for a search makes you “cranky”, you probably don’t have the resources to be a successful inventor.
6. You have to have the international search done as part of a comprehensive search because if your invention has been done anywhere in the world at any time in history, you will not be granted a U.S. patent. It doesn’t matter if you are planning to sell internationally or not.
Do as much as you can yourself. But when you eventually get sick of searching (as you undoubtedly will), it’s time to have a professional take another look.