Patenting an invention is a lengthy process which requires time and money. Before you begin the process, it is important to conduct a thorough patent search to determine your chances of eventually obtaining a patent. A patent search also shows you existing similar inventions, allowing you to potentially work around those other inventions and maximize your chances of eventually obtaining a patent.
A patent search is an important step in the patent application process. It involves looking for prior art, which are inventions that already exist before you file your patent application. The US Patent Office looks for these existing inventions called prior art to argue that you don’t deserve a patent because your invention has already been thought of by someone else.
Prior art can be anything from an existing patent to a published article, a trade show presentation, or even a public speech. If someone else has already invented the invention, any evidence of that previous invention is prior art. Even if someone didn’t apply for a patent, but showed the invention to the public such as on YouTube or sold the invention on Amazon, that public showing is still prior art, and the US Patent Office could use that against your patent application. The goal of a patent search is to determine whether your invention is novel and non-obvious when compared to existing inventions, and therefore whether you may obtain a patent from the US Patent Office.
Here are the reasons why a patent search is important:
Saving Time and Money
Conducting a patent search can save you time and money in the long run. If you spend months or even years working on an invention only to find out later that it’s already patented, all your time and resources may have
been wasted. It costs money to apply for a patent. Before you spend the time and money to apply for a patent on your invention, you should get an idea of whether the invention is patentable. A thorough patent search can help you avoid investing time and money in an invention that may not be patentable.
Improving Your Invention
A patent search can also help you improve your invention. By researching prior art, you can gain insights into how similar inventions work and what features they have. This information may give you the opportunity to improve your invention and make it more novel and non-obvious before you file a patent application. The more differences compared to existing inventions you have, the better the chance you will get a patent.
Once a patent application has been filed, you cannot add new information to it. So, you want to make all the improvements and additions you can to your invention before you apply for the patent, as you might not be able to add to the patent application later.
The best way to differentiate yourself from other inventions is to know about them through a prior art search. Once you learn about other inventions, you may be able to change your invention around what other inventions have or add features the other inventions don’t have, thus maximizing the differences between your invention and others. This will then maximize the chances of the US Patent Office approving your patent application.
How to Conduct a Thorough Patent Search:
Now that you know why a patent search is important, here’s how to conduct a thorough patent search:
1. Determine Your Search Criteria
Before you begin your search, you need to determine your search criteria. This will help you narrow down your search and find the most relevant prior art. Your search criteria should include keywords related to your invention, such as its features, components, and function.
2. Use Online Patent Databases
The place to start your patent search is online patent search databases. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website is a good place to start. You can also use other online patent databases such as Google Patents. Patent search databases allow you to search for patents by keyword, inventor, or patent number.
3. Look for Non-Patent Literature
In addition to searching for patents, you should also look for non-patent literature, anything that is not a patent such as academic journals, technical papers, and conference proceedings. Even anything on YouTube, or sold on Amazon can be prior art. Non-patent literature can provide valuable information about prior art that may not be documented in a patent. Anything that is available to the public anywhere in the world can be used by the US Patent Office as prior art to say your invention has already been invented.
4. Hire a Patent Attorney
Patent attorneys have the experience and expertise to conduct a better patent search than an inventor without patent search experience. Patent attorneys use different strategies to perform a patent search such as keyword searching, class searching, and forward and reverse citation searching. These different patent search methods allow a patent attorney to find more prior art.
A patent attorney can also give you an opinion as to how likely your invention will get a patent. If a patent search finds no invention exactly like yours but it finds an invention that is somewhat similar, can you get a patent? Is the found prior art too similar or different enough from you for you to likely get a patent? A patent attorney can tell you how likely you are to get a patent in light of the prior art found and discuss strategies to increase your chances of patentability before you spend time and money applying for the patent. This valuable information comes from the experience a patent attorney gains from seeing patent applications every day.
In conclusion, conducting a thorough patent search is crucial for inventors who want to protect their inventions. It can help you avoid legal issues, save time and money, and improve your invention. By following the tips outlined in this article, you can conduct a comprehensive search and increase your chances of obtaining a patent for your invention.