February 3, 2023
By R. Benjamin Peeler, IV
If you are considering the possibility of seeking a patent, one of the first questions you should ask is: “Does my invention already exist?” If the answer is yes, then you cannot patent your invention because novelty, or newness, is one of the fundamental requirements for getting a patent. Another important question is “Is my invention nonobvious?” But how do you know if your invention already exists or is nonobvious? Conducting a patent search will help you to evaluate the patentability of your invention.
A patent search is done in two stages: (1) determining the novelty of your invention, and (2) determining whether your invention is nonobvious. In the novelty stage, you should search domestic and foreign published patents and patent applications, as well as other sources such as websites, articles, books, etc. to see if each and every part of your invention has already been fully described in any single source. In the “nonobviousness” stage, you will search for sources disclosing any piece of your invention to see if someone would be motivated to combine them to yield your invention. These searches are known as “prior art searches.”
While it may seem daunting to search through all that information to find prior art, here are
some tips that will help you conduct a patent search more efficiently and effectively:
Patent searches are one of the best ways to ensure that your invention is patentable before you invest money into costly USPTO filing fees. They also allow you to familiarize yourself with the prior art of your invention, avoid any accidental patent infringement, and potentially spark new creative ideas. You can perform a patent search on your own, but seeking the help of a professional can be extremely beneficial in ensuring your invention is patentable.
Ben Peeler is an associate attorney with Flint, Connolly, & Walker LLP who specializes in intellectual property and commercial transaction matters.