• Is it necessary to conduct a Patent Search?

    Filing and obtaining a patent is expensive and should not be unless you are sure that your invention will qualify for patent protection. The only surefire way to know is by conducting a patentability search. The United States Patent and Trademark office does not require that an inventor conduct a search but failure to conduct a search could render your invention unpatentable and the patent filing fees are expensive.

    There are several goals for conducting a patent search. The first is to see if there is any prior art that is related to your invention. Prior art is any prior invention which has the same features. If something has prior art, your invention will be considered obvious and a patent will not be granted. The second goal of a patent search is to help the inventor determine if he or she actually wants to file an application. If a patent is unable to be obtained, the search can help save the inventor considerable fees. The final goal of conducting the search is that it helps the inventor in determining what the appropriate claims should be and helps the inventor draft the claims with the proper industry language.

    Although it seems that a search is quite important and should be done in all situations, this is not the case. There are two situations in which it will waste time and effort for the inventor to conduct a search. The first situation is if your invention deals with a field that is extremely new or is small and very specialized. The reason that you would not conduct a patent search in this situation is that a new field is unlikely to have patents already issued. If you work within a small and specialized field, it is likely that you are abreast of all of the new technology that exists by reading trade journals or attending conferences. The second situation where you should not conduct a search is if you are trying to patent an improvement on an invention that you previously patented and conducted a search for.

    Once you have decided to conduct a patent search, there are two ways that you can accomplish your search: either do the search yourself or hire someone else to do it for you. There are advantages and disadvantages for each type of search.
    If you do the search yourself, you can ensure that the search is done fully and thoroughly. One of the main benefits of doing the search yourself is that it will save you a lot of money. Additionally, it will enable you to become more familiar with other similar patents and materials that are comparable to your invention. There are three different ways to conduct a search. The first and best way is to go to the United States Patent Office in Alexandria, Virginia. However, if you do not live close by, you can search the local Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries located around the country. Finally, you can do a computer search of the United States Patent Office and conduct a general information search on the computer.

    On the other hand, you may also decide that instead of doing the search yourself, you will hire a professional. Again this has advantages and disadvantages. An advantage is that the professional will have more experience and understand how and where to conduct the search. The disadvantage is that hiring a professional to do the search is not cheap. There are three different types of professionals that you can hire. The first and most expensive is a patent attorney, or someone that is licensed in your state and is also licensed to practice in front of the United States Patent office. The second professional that you can hire is a patent agent. The difference between a patent agent and a patent attorney is that a patent agent is licensed to practice in front of the patent office and to prepare patent applications, but is not a licensed attorney. The third professional you can hire is a lay person, or patent searcher. A patent searcher is not licensed by the patent office and is just an individual who helps in conducting patent searches.

    You need to remember that you will never be able to obtain a perfect search regardless of how much time and money you spend. The reason for this is that some patents are held confidential, unpublished patent applications that are still pending are unable to be searched, and not all foreign patents are listed.
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