Conducting a Preliminary Patent Search: Searching Online before Securing Professional Assistance

While an inventor can conduct a patent search on his own, there are also patent agents and attorneys who can assist in this for a fee. Searching online can help inventors locate patent search assistance so that it is conducted professionally. This will offer assurance that it has been done thoroughly and completely.

Some inventors may wish to conduct their own preliminary patent search first, before paying for professional assistance. The subheadings that follow can help inventors know how to conduct a preliminary patent search.

Search the Shelves and Catalogs of Retail Outlets

While this step isn’t technically part of a patent search, it can help confirm the value in conducting one. It might also reveal to an inventor that no further search is needed if the invention already exists on the market. A more thorough preliminary patent search would not be necessary; if an inventor discovers that his invention or one that is very similar is already being marketed by someone else.

As a first step in establishing the originality of a product invention and in determining if more thorough search is merited, it’s a good idea to make sure a product-idea is not already widely available in major chain stores or in major catalog outlets.

Conduct a Search on Major Search Engines

This is a another preparatory step in getting ready for conducting an actual patent search through the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO). There are websites that are not actually connected to the USPTO, yet still index patented inventions and even non-patented inventions on the search engines, as part of their services to inventors. By conducting an online search on a search engine such as Google, an inventor can better-establish the need to do a more detailed and thorough search on the USPTO website. Google in-fact now has a search engine called “Google patents beta” (link provided in Sources – below this article) .

Other major search engines in addition to Google include the following:


If, for example, an inventor believes he has a new, unique type of windshield wiper for automobiles, he can use several variations of search terms that describe the product-invention. It might also yield more results to include the word “patent” in the search. This step not only helps to locate any pages of patented inventions that might be similar to a new invention, but also displays results on any non-patented products in general that might already be on the market.

A widely marketed product of similar purpose or design might pose too much competition for a new invention and might be a deciding factor against a further search using the USPTO website.

Searching Patents on the USPTO Website

The value in a more thoroughly conducted patent search is in working toward getting patent protection for an original invention by following up with a patent application. But it also helps prevent an inventor from infringing upon another patent which could make them legally liable for damages if it results in loss of sales or threatens the originality of an existing patented invention.

Inventors or their agents/attorneys can go online and visit the “USPTO’s Index to the United States Patent Classification System”. This online source of granted patents and patent-pending inventions, lists inventions of every kind that have been submitted through applications, in alphabetical categories.

Conducting a thorough patent search, following a preliminary one or even as a first-step toward gaining protection for inventions, takes time but can be well worth the effort to establish the originality and patentability of them.

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