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Patent Search

A patent search is a critical preliminary step in the process of securing a patent and an essential practice for inventors, companies, and entrepreneurs. It involves conducting a thorough investigation of existing patents and published patent applications to determine if your invention or a similar one has already been patented or disclosed. This guide outlines the importance, types, and how to conduct a patent search effectively.

Importance of Patent Search

Determining Novelty

The core purpose of a patent search is to ascertain the novelty of an invention. Patents are only granted to novel, non-obvious, and useful inventions. A search helps identify prior art that could affect the patentability of your invention.

Strategic Planning

A comprehensive search provides insights into the competitive landscape, helping inventors and businesses strategize their development and patenting approach.

Avoiding Infringement

By identifying existing patents, you can avoid unintentional infringement on another’s patent rights, which could result in costly legal disputes.

Saving Time and Resources

Knowing the patentability of your invention early can save the time, effort, and resources that might otherwise be spent on pursuing a non-viable patent application.

Types Of Patent Searches

Novelty Search

Conducted to evaluate if an invention is new by comparing it against the universe of published patents and patent applications.

Freedom to Operate (FTO) Search

Determines if a particular action, such as launching a product, can be done without infringing on active patents.

State of the Art Search

Provides a broad overview of a specific technology area, useful for identifying trends, potential research and development directions, or collaborators.

Validity/Invalidity Search

Undertaken to either affirm the enforceability of a patent’s claims or to challenge their validity, often in legal disputes.

How to Conduct a Patent Search

Prepare a Clear Definition of Your Invention: Identify the key features, functionalities, and technical specifications of your invention.

Use Multiple Search Databases

Utilize various patent databases such as the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), European Patent Office (EPO), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and others for a comprehensive search.

Employ Different Search Strategies

Start with keyword searches based on your invention’s characteristics, then use classification search based on the international patent classification system to uncover relevant patents.

Analyze the Results

Review the abstracts, claims, and drawings of identified patents and patent applications to determine their relevance to your invention. Pay special attention to the claims section, as it defines the scope of patent protection.

Keep Iterating

Patent searching is an iterative process. Refine your search terms and strategies based on initial findings to ensure no relevant prior art is missed.

Professional Assistance

While preliminary patent searches can be conducted independently, the complexity and importance of a thorough search often necessitate professional assistance. Patent attorneys or professional patent searchers have the expertise, experience, and access to specialized databases that can significantly improve the quality and reliability of the search results.


A diligent patent search is indispensable for navigating the patent landscape effectively. It not only informs the patent application process but also guides strategic decision-making concerning product development and intellectual property management. Whether conducted independently or with professional help, a well-executed patent search lays the groundwork for successful innovation and patenting strategies.