But, inventors need to be careful.
It’s quite common for inventors to conduct a patent search or a patent pending search and find nothing, even when there is, in fact, prior art that could and would be found by a professional searcher.
Needless to say, there are a few tools out there that can help you search, so you can familiarize yourself with existing patents and obtain important information about what makes your invention unique.
Here are some strategies and a few free tools to help you out:
United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
The USPTO website is a great starting point — it has granted millions of patents and its tools allow you to search through records back to 1790. I suggest reviewing patents like your invention and always broadening your search in case you’re looking in the wrong place.
The downside of searching the USPTO website by yourself is that it is quite technical and slow and you can easily overlook important prior art if you don0t know where to look.
It can quickly become overwhelming if you’re not a patent agent or a patent lawyer.
Google Patent Search
Google also offers Google Patent Search, which is just like your regular, everyday Google search, but with patents.
A great thing about Google Patent Search is that it’s lightning-fast (compared to the USPTO) and you can experiment with tons of different keywords to see which results are more relevant.
The reason I don’t suggest only searching on Google is that it has some serious limitations — the number of fields that can be searched is very limited and there are some serious holes in the database.
I’ve personally searched for patents that I know exist and can’t always find them and I’ve heard of similar experiences with other patent attorneys and agents.
There’s also an Advanced Google Patent Search to look for patents filed by specific companies, inventors, and dates.
Espacenet Patent Searching
Specifically for Europeans or anyone interested in obtaining a patent in Europe, Espacenet is offered by the European Patent Office and is similar to Google — plug in your keywords and search away.
Again, similar to Google, there is an advanced version to break down your search even further. You can search by specific company, inventor name, patent number, and lots more.
iSearch.ai is a fantastic new patent search tool, developed by us (thank you very much), that uses AI to search for existing patents based on the description of your idea. Instantly!
Searching by keywords or ambiguous categories only creates more confusion and bigger holes. Our AI’s unprecedented approach using the description of your idea will help you search for relevant patents and published applications, give you a uniqueness score to calculate how new and inventive your idea is, uncover competitors, and find potential overlaps for you to look out for!
Better yet, iSearch allows you to conduct a Google Patent Search within the tool itself, as well as a “Look-alike” search where you can smoke out companies and competitors that have similar patents and published applications.
Finally, you’ll be able to download a report with all the information you discovered.
It’s the best tool to consider whether your idea earns the effort you’re putting into it, and if not, how to replace it with an idea that is.
Now it’s up to you
As markets get more competitive, winning by traditional rules gets more and more difficult.
Conducting an efficient and competent patent search is a crucial step in the innovation process, it can help you turn your idea into a reality!
Remember to also keep in mind if having information about your competitors and possible overlaps is valuable to you. I, personally, think it gives you the upper hand!
I like to say building the extraordinary takes guts.
Why not start now?