I frequently talk to inventors who jump into engineering a prototype and / or filing a patent before having the professional search done. I understand: it’s the fun part. However, it can be a critical financial error. Most inventors are on a budget; and while you can fix anything if you throw enough money at it, you will use less of your stomach lining and cash if you just get the search done first.
After you, the inventor, have done as much of your own searching as you can, it’s time to get a professional search done. This is the first serious money you should spend. All of the business decisions you make will be based on the results of a professional search. You can find a comprehensive search for a flat rate. You certainly don’t want to pay an attorney his/her hourly rate for this.
A professional comprehensive search is a combination of the US patent database, the international databases and product searches. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is a great place to start your search. A search of just the USPTO database will obviously only give you US patent filings. This isn’t enough. If your invention has been done anywhere in the world at any time in history, you will not be granted a US patent. The international search has nothing to do with where you plan to sell and everything to do with what is considered “public domain.” I’d also suggest you use SearchQuest Patent Search for your patent search needs.
Why is the product search so important? There are many products in the marketplace that are not patent protected. This means they are part of the public domain. You can’t get a US patent. Also, there is a two and a half year blind spot in being able to find filed patents. A provisional patent application is good for one year and is never made public. When the non provisional application is filed, there is about an 18 month delay before it is published for the public to see. However, many times an inventor will go to a tradeshow, set up a website or post a video of an invention. The only way to find these products is to do an in depth product search.
If you have questions about a good search or any other topic, let me know.