Patents - Before You Search

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Why conduct a patent search? People search patents for many reasons, most often because they have an invention they hope to patent. A search will determine whether an invention has patenting potential. Others search patents to find alternative approaches and suggestions to help resolve technological problems. Studies have shown that 80% of all patents hold information that is not published anywhere else in the world. By tapping into this tremendous resource, the searcher avoids "reinventing the wheel".

Patents can also provide information that will help someone fabricating a repair part, or may clarify the resources required to make an unfamiliar product work. Searchers also use patents for their historical usefulness and information, such as tracing the development of firearms, reviewing the inventive work of a particular inventor or company, or finding patents issued to an ancestor.

Although no one is required to conduct a patent search, many inventors prefer to do a preliminary search before they apply for a patent because a search may yield information that could affect the patenting potential of their invention. A search may not only help inventors decide whether to pursue a patent but also whether to modify their efforts to improve the probability of getting a patent.


Why Preliminary Searching?

Patent searching is a challenging task many searchers choose to do in order to decide on a course of action that will ultimately determine their legal rights. Conducting the searches is challenging precisely because the process involves multiple steps using resources with which many searchers are not familiar. By comparison, patent experts spend many hours in training and many hours searching inventions in their daily work.

For example, patent examiners at the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) spend about twelve hours investigating each patent application to determine whether the invention it describes is patentable. During that time, the examiner consults an average of thirty-eight databases containing patent and non-patent literature to determine whether the invention has ever before been described. Although a novice searcher may miss important patent information when searching, the best defense against these mistakes is practice, patience and the development of one's search skills.