It’s a smart idea to make sure that your smart idea isn’t already someone else’s smart idea.
There are a ton of online websites for patent searches, many of which are free.
And you know, I’m not going to say this isn’t a great initial step if you think you have an awesome concept that you want to bring to life.
Once you get really serious about getting a patent (once your idea becomes a real life invention), you should pony up the cost to hire a professional. You’d be amazed at how many people do their own searches, find nothing, and then a few months or even years down the road run into some legal troubles.
There is definitely an art to perfecting patent searches and there aren’t many people who can successfully do that without any previous training or experience.
It sounds like, based on the additional comments, you really want to do this without a lawyer. I’m assuming this has a lot to do with the cost. I’d like to invite you to check out my company,We have a marketplace of freelance attorneys that work for themselves so they can offer much lower rates than traditional law firms. Take a look at the site, and get in touch for a consultation if we seem like a good fit.