Conducting a Patent Search

Why conduct a patent search?

1.  Patentability

The basic purpose of the patent search is to determine whether the patent office will grant a patent on an invention.  The patent search attempts to locate patent documents primarily issued patents and published patent applications that might provide an indication as to patentability.

2.  Additional time and money

If the decision to start a business is dependent upon obtaining an issued patent, then the patent search also functions as a go/no-go gage in deciding whether to invest additional time and money on molds, marketing, and other business needs.

Why conduct an informal DIY Patent Search?

The purpose of the informal DIY Patent Search is to save money.  If you find a relevant reference that is identical to your invention, then there is no need to spend money on an attorney to obtain a formal patentability opinion.  You may still want to obtain an opinion from a trained patent attorney but it would only be to confirm your own interpretation of the discovered patent document.

How to conduct an informal DIY Patent Search?

First step

Brainstorm keywords associated with the invention.  This helps to cast a broad net so that you won’t missing any relevant patent documents.

Second step

You need to be familiar with the class/subclass system of the Patent Office which categorizes all patent documents.  The text based search you conduct will only be in a few relevant classes and subclasses so that irrelevant patent documents won’t show up in your search results.  Find relevant classes and subclasses.  

Third step

Finally, search the patent databases using the keywords within the classes and subclasses.  Upon review of the search results, update the keywords, classes and subclasses and repeat the third step with the updated information.

Why seek a formal opinion?

After conducting your informal DIY Patent Search, seek the advice of an attorney.  If you find a reference that is similar to your invention, the patent attorney may have a different opinion and various ideas to get around the patent document.

Even if you don’t find a patent document identical to your invention, the patent attorney may disagree and be able to show you why your invention is obvious in light of the patent documents found through the informal DIY Patent Search.

Why conduct a formal patent search after an informal DIY Patent Search?

An informal DIY Patent Search is a search conducted by an untrained layperson.  If the informal DIY Patent Search was conducted incorrectly, then the search results will be inadequate and the basis of the patentability opinion will not be strong.

I invite you to contact me with your patent questions at (949) 433-0900 or Please feel free to forward this article to your friends. As an Orange County Patent Attorney, I serve Orange County, Irvine, Los Angeles, San Diego and surrounding cities.

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James Yang is an Orange County patent lawyer and welcomes potential clients throughout California including Orange County, Riverside County, Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Ana, Irvine, Orange, Anaheim, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Tustin, Brea, Fullerton, Buena Park, Mission Viejo, Lake Forest, Laguna Niguel, Stanton, San Clemente, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Cypress, Laguna Beach, Coto de Caza, Costa Mesa, Aliso Viejo, Ladera Ranch, Dana Point and Foothill Ranch.