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Importance of a Patent Search

Inventors, most likely there is something like your idea already!

With a few strokes of your keyboard and clicks of your mouse, the inventions and patents of the world are at your fingertips. Discovering new products has never been easier, and patent searches can be done from the comfort of a computer.

So, I have question. Why are so many inventors conducting poor patent searches or even skipping the process all together?

Are they worried they might find something like their invention? Do they believe that no one could have possibly thought of such a great idea before them? Or are they stepping over dollars to save dimes? I ask because I’m concerned.

Since COVID-19 has gripped America our team has been remotely working, and I’ve personally been reviewing a lot of products submitted to our company. And I’ve noticed a scary trend.

Independent inventors are spending money on invention courses, experts, prototypes, provisional patent applications and sell sheets without conducting a patent search and novelty assessment.

These inspiring innovators boast about the uniqueness of their idea, how there’s nothing like it now and never has been, and they’re patent pending.  However, over the years I’ve seen a lot of ideas. And often these “totally unique inventions” have little to no differences from existing products and patents.

When I ask, “Have you conducted a patent search?” I often hear, I did it myself and there was nothing even similar. “Nothing even similar” is a red flag! Almost as often I hear, “No, if it were patented already, it’d be out there.” That’s just not accurate. Most people know to get a patent. They just don’t know what to do after that, so the patent archives are full of patents that never made it to the marketplace…they don’t even have an Amazon listing.

So, why are so many people spending money on patent applications, prototypes, courses and more without first finding out if they are the true inventor of their invention?

Are they listening to the experts and learning just enough to be dangerous? Do first-time inventors mistakenly believe conducting a thorough patent search is easy, and there’s no need to pay a patent attorney? Now that’s stepping over dollars to save dimes. A high-quality patent search and assessment saves you time, money and aggravation, and can even lead to stronger patent preparation.

Another hurdle to DIY patent searches is many inventors are unfamiliar with the terminology a great patent attorney will use so they overlook critical prior art. Making it harder yet, there are millions of patents and published applications that are cross-referenced in a multitude of categories. The result is incomplete patent searches that can cause problems down the road.

To be clear, Yes, independent inventor should do their own research first. The Patent & Trademark Office website (www.USPTO.gov) and Google Patents are great sources. If you find your product then you can enhance the design or put the brakes on. But just because you don’t find your invention doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. This is when it’s time to hire a patent attorney.

There are numerous benefits to a professional patent search and novelty assessment.

  • First, with a professional’s knowledge of the classification system and familiarity with patent terminology they’ll locate more and better prior art.
  • Second, there is significantly less chance of an oversight, and an oversight can be costly in new product introduction.
  • Additionally, finding similar prior art doesn’t necessarily blow your idea out of the water. What it might do is give you an opportunity to make design enhancements that help with your product’s patentability, and more importantly, its marketability.
  • Furthermore, it’ll arm you with product knowledge. When a potential licensee or business partner ask, “Why is your product better than the competition,” you won’t be surprised to hear there’s competition and you can answer in a knowledgeable manner.

A patent search and novelty assessment will allow you to make an informed decision about moving forward with your invention.

Important, don’t just hire anybody! There are firms online who offer dirt cheap patent searches but don’t include a novelty assessment (or a patentability opinion letter). Stay away from these firms. Don’t pay for a patent search without a novelty assessment. I’m a big fan of saving money, but when it comes to your invention; cheaper isn’t always better.

Here’s what you should get from the firm you hire.

  • An honest, experienced patent attorney or patent agent.
  • An invention disclosure form that allows you to provide a detailed description of your product to include a mechanical description and a list of the novel features.
  • The patent search results and a novelty assessment that clearly states the patent attorney’s professional opinion if patent protection may or may not be available, and why.

Are similar products OK? Maybe. When a quality search is conducted it’s normal to find competition. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to give up on your idea. For every Coke, there’s a Pepsi. Similar products may prove there’s a market for your invention, and that consumers might be willing to spend money on it. Home Depot doesn’t sell different refrigerators because they’re all unique. They do it because each fridge offers various features that appeal to different customers. If you believe in your idea, and it offers a value to the consumer, go ahead and compete.

A patent search isn’t something nice to have. It isn’t a waste of time. It isn’t a waste of money. It’s a must! You should not file patents, create sell sheets, pay monthly fees to experts, or market your product without first knowing if you are the true inventor.

Some may disagree with this article, and that’s OK, as there are many ways to accomplish a task, but there is only one “best way” to do anything.

It’s a great time to be an inventor! Just do it the right way and we’ll see you at the TOP!

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