When you or your design team gets excited about a new idea or your dinner party conversation ends with, “We should patent that,” what should you do next?
Your first step in determining whether your flash of insight is patentable should be to conduct a preliminary patent search. If your eagerness is overwhelming and you simply cannot wait for your patent attorney to see you, you should use the resources available at the USPTO. The USPTO provides free online access to all publically available utility patent applications. Thus, you can search the USPTO patent database to see whether there are any prior patents or published applications that would prevent you from getting a patent. To ensure that your search is productive, we strongly encourage you to avail yourself of the tutorials provided on the USPTO search page http://www.uspto.gov/patent, and especially:
Another free and very powerful tool for accessing similar records can be found through Google Patents (https://patents.google.com/). Using keywords you can search for issued patents and applications, across a number of jurisdictions, including the US, Europe, Japan, China, Canada and Germany. With a click of the box “include non-patent” literature you can also obtain search results through Google Scholar, for related materials.
While a full prior-art search performed by a professional search company with access to highly refined algorithms and limited access research tools, is always recommended prior to filing a patent, before investing financial resources or getting too far down the development path, we recommend you take advantage of free online tools.