Ways to Perform a Patent Search

Performing an online patent search is fairly simple and inexpensive, and patents from foreign countries can also be accessed in this manner. One drawback is that if you do not select your keywords carefully you may completely miss your area of invention. Also, some online records may not extend very far into the past. You can, however, identify the class and sub-class in your area of invention.

The USPTO and others offer online database patent searches at no charge. These are dynamic and ever-changing resources. Here is a list of popular URL’s for free self-help patent searching:

These searches are a good first step to help you learn about similar patents. It is not uncommon to discover a patent that nearly identically describes your invention. You may want to take the results of your preliminary patent search to a local patent attorney for a free initial consultation. At that time the patent attorney may review the patents that you have found and determine that your invention is not patentable because of the similarity of the other patents. Such searches are sometimes called “prior art searches,” although they are normally referring to a search of prior patents.

When patent examiners at the USPTO examine your patent application, they seek to discover the existence of “prior art,” some of which may cause your application to be disallowed. The examiners not only refer to prior U.S. patents, they also refer to trade publications, company brochures, catalogs, advertisements and a multitude of other public documents that are available to them. This is why doing a search for similar products in the marketplace is the next logical step beyond a patent search.

Even when you have performed a thorough preliminary patent search, prior to patenting it’s wise to invest in an exhaustive search done by the patent attorney or agent who will prosecute your patent application. If you overlook an existing patent that could cause your patent application to be disallowed, a patent examiner in the Patent Office will likely find it. Why spend a few thousand dollars on a patent application when you can discover that it’s not worth pursuing for only a few hundred dollars?

Overview of ways to obtain a patent or prior art search, in order of cost:

  1. Perform a US Patent Search Free On-line – On this website go to “Patent Searching” where you will find instruction about how to perform your own free search. Cost: Free
  2. Do a World patent application search on the WIPO PatentScope database. Cost: Free
  3. Subscribe to a major world patent database, and do extensive word searches on patents and research papers from around the world. Cost: $50 to $200
  4. Hire a professional patent search firm to do a US patent search for you, takes 1-2 weeks, or rush 1-2 days. Cost: $300 – $500.
  5. Hire a patent attorney or patent agent to do a search with patentability opinion letter, 1-4 weeks. Cost: $500 – $1,500+
  6. Have a World patent search performed at one of the designated World patent offices. Cost: $1,000 – $2000+

See the 7-Step Patent Search procedure for a quick reference to conduct you own free patent search. A more complete instruction is contained in chapter 2
of The Inventor’s Bible.