A New Product Idea! Patent Search (2 of 9)
A patent search can be quite costly when hiring a patent attorney to conduct one for you. Before the age of computers a search might involve only a trip to a local city library to review their patent files. But most likely it would involve a trip to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in Washington. There, the patent attorney would labor over the many patents issued over the years relative in concept to your idea. The most recent issued patents would be reviewed, maybe not the older ones having expired after a life of approximately twenty years. Now that we are into the age of computers and the internet, recently granted and long ago granted patents are easily available to review. Google patents is fast as is the USPTO site for reviewing granted patents.
A patent attorney can do a better search than the idea innovator can. Just like the innovator invents better than a patent attorney. That doesn’t mean you can’t conduct one on your own. Self achievement is what this group of articles is all about. You can do it to a reasonable level of your satisfaction and then seek some idea protection. Or you might review every patent you can find relative to your idea, doing all of the leg work, and give your attorney the list of patents you feel might be more than similar in concept. He might be obliging to look up and review your short list and offer his expertise concluding that your idea to the best of his knowledge is original. He may want to study one or two of them a bit longer or might even suggest that you’ve done a sufficient job on your own. This might involve only an hour of his time versus more than a half day if he did the entire search himself. It’s important to have an understanding with the patent attorney that it is he you will want to hire to write the patent if and when you decide to initiate it. And then again, you may feel totally satisfied as a result of your search that nothing similar to your idea exists patent wise or product wise and proceed confidently to the protection of a provisional patent.
Before you start this tedious searching process, visit a few of the types of stores that might sell your idea as a product if it existed. You might find the idea concept in product form at retail stores as Walmart, Caldor’s or Target. You might find it already for sale and actually feel good about discovering it knowing you didn’t spend any money so far. Even better, shop online for it. Use every search term you can think of that might find it if it exists. If you enter enough different search terms, the search engine might come upon it. Don’t forget, it might be on page eighteen and not page one.
The front page of existing patents should be as far as you have to go when searching for similarities. However, speed reading the entire patent is necessary when you find one obviously similar. Every click of the mouse is one less click you will have to pay for if initiating a search with a patent attorney.
During your patent search you will most likely fine concepts similar to your idea. You might realize you’ve never seen the patented concept in the stores. That’s because there’s a ninety seven percent chance it never made it to the store shelves. If it did, it may be different in appearance than the patented concept. It will be to your advantage to fine similar concepts that will help you not infringe on any of it’s claims. A very close similarity warrants the attention and opinion of a patent attorney.
Many dollars have been spent on ideas already patented. Haste makes waste as anyone over the age of eighteen knows. It’s tedious work searching for existing patents, but work that is seldom beat dollar for dollar. I spent close to forty hours working on a dual saw concept I was convinced every contractor in the world would buy. The concept turned out to not only be patented, but was on the market in Europe as well, manufactured my a large U.S. firm.
When you read the cover sheet of a patent, write down the patent number so you don’t end up reading about it again. Descriptions of many patents are similar and it may not be obvious when you are not reading a fresh one. I’ve gotten as high as seventy five patent reviews for a dovetail jig and just as high for a manual drill bit sharpener. My patent attorney was impressed and assured me when reviewing those I thought I might be infringing on, that in his opinion I wouldn’t be.
Talk to people you trust, especially the older people and ask if they have ever seen anything like your idea over the years. You’ll be amazed at the information you receive in return. The conversations might even spark improvements in your idea.
I don’t think it’s very nice to take advantage of anyone’s expertise. A good patent attorney knows he has to spend some time up front with you in order to promote his expertise in writing patent applications. Some of his search and evaluation knowledge might be expected as long as he knows you won’t be seeking the services of another patent writer down the road. Good business relationships are important. If you don’t pursue a patent for your idea, he should know you will be looking him up again with future ideas.
Again, my work and my patent attorney’s expertise got me through my searches and he got a good review of the ideas I would eventually ask him to draft patent applications for within a years time.
Next: A New Product Idea!
Provisional Patent Protection (3 of 9)