How to Do a Patent Search Yourself

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If you are in search of a patent, do not assume the query is mission impossible.  With a little bit of effort, time and determination, you can successfully conduct a patent search on your own.  Let’s take a quick look at the importance of securing a patent and the basics of the patent search process.


The Importance of Securing Your Own Patent 

You or one of your business partners has a fantastic idea for a new product or invention that is likely to be widely coveted once it is produced and hits the market.  This is the type of invention you must protect in a truly comprehensive manner, ideally with the assistance of a patent lawyer.  Fail to obtain the proper patent protection and your idea or product will likely be stolen or at least partially copied by another party who claims the idea/product is their own and ultimately generates revenue from it.

Securing a patent for the invention or product in question is one of the best ways to obtain and maintain exclusive rights. However, a patent search must be conducted beforehand.  If the patent raises thorny legal concerns or if the patent is especially complex, it is best to lean on legal help throughout the patent search and application process. Avoid making critically important errors that opens the door for a competitor to steal your idea.


An Overview of the Patent Search and Filing Process 

Innumerable inventors and business professionals have navigated through the country’s patent system to protect their creations from inappropriate use.  It is particularly interesting to note federal law mandates patent examiners who work at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to assist individual inventors who file an application for a patent. However, the assistance of a proven trademark lawyer will eventually be necessary.

In order to obtain a patent, you must prove the invention qualifies for the protection of a patent.  Once it is determined the invention qualifies for the patent in question, the patent application must be completed in a comprehensive manner.  In other words, you must be able to describe every aspect of your invention in order to obtain and maintain the protection of a patent.  You do not need a law degree to search for a patent and file an application for a patent.  However, the assistance of a savvy patent lawyer will help you expedite the patent search and application process.


The USPTO and the Patent Search and Filing Process

Abide by the USPTO’s nuanced rules for filing a patent application and there is a good chance the patent will be granted.  The USPTO’s rules pertaining to acquiring a patent are inherently complex and challenging to adhere to.  However, if you are willing to invest a bit of time, you can fully comply with the USPTO’s nuanced rules.  In particular, it will help to maintain a written record of your creation.  Record the steps of the process required to invent the product in question.  Diagram, describe and document every single aspect of the invention including its modification(s) as time progresses.  Even your brainstorming of the idea for the invention should be documented.  

In some cases, it is prudent to construct and test a prototype.  However, this is not the case for every single invention.  When in doubt, consult with a patent lawyer for assistance and guidance to determine how to best spend your limited amount of time.  Be sure to sign and date each piece of documentation.  Ideally, two credible witnesses will also sign the documentation for added proof that your idea is original to you as opposed to a competitor or another party.


The Invention Must be Eligible for Patent Protection 

Some inventions do not qualify for patent protection.  It is not possible to obtain a patent strictly based on a single idea.  Inventors are tasked with showing exactly how their invention functions.  Furthermore, the invention in question must be either new or qualify as novel in accordance with patent law.  In other words, the invention must be different from prior inventions in the field.  Furthermore, this difference must be a significant one; otherwise, the invention in question will be too similar to one or several prior inventions.  

If you suspect the USPTO patent examiner is likely to deny your patent application, do not submit it hoping for the best. The better approach is to lean on a proven patent lawyer to heighten the odds of acceptance.  However, even if you were to proceed without the assistance of a patent layer, it will still be necessary to fork over hundreds or thousands of dollars in fees to file the patent and obtain the approved patent from the USPTO.


A Comprehensive Patent Search is Necessary 

In order to verify your invention is new and unique, it’ll be necessary to analyze prior developments in the field.  Such an investigation requires an in-depth search of United States patents.  In some instances, it will be necessary to search through foreign patents as well.  In certain cases, it is even necessary to search publications such as technical journals to determine if similar inventions exist.  Though conducting a patent search certainly takes some time, those who are patient can complete the search without a major time investment.  So don’t hesitate to conduct a patent search on your own; you know your invention better than anyone.  It only makes sense that you launch the search.

Your patent research should commence on the web.  However, it is prudent to spend some time at a Patent and Trademark Depository Library to search through prior patents.  Furthermore, a librarian may provide assistance in your search.  When searching, you are likely to find at least one other similar invention.  Do not panic.  Ideally, your patent application will detail how the invention enhances the prior creation or is different from that invention.


Preparing and Filing the Application With the USPTO

File the patent application with the USPTO and choose between two applications. This includes a regular patent application known as an RPA or the provisional patent application, dubbed the PPA.  The PPA is not a patent application in and of itself.  When a PPA is filed, it merely indicates you are permitted to apply the status of “patent pending” to the invention.  PPAs are often favored as they require less work and money than RPAs.  The cost to file a PPA is a mere $65 for micro-entities, $260 for companies deemed “large” and an affordable $130 for businesses classified as small entities.  The fee must be accompanied by a detailed description of the product, an explanation of how the product is made/used and lastly, an informal drawing of the product.

The RPA must be filed within one year of the PPA’s filing.  If this timetable is not met, it is no longer possible to claim the filing date of the PPA.  This is precisely why some inventors file the PPA right away.  Filing the PPA helps obtain immediate credibility for the invention and subsequently generate that much more investor interest.