PRIOR ART SEARCH
You must do a prior art search before embarking on any patent application. The prior art search checks that your invention is really novel. What counts as “prior art” is actually a quite complex legal concept, but for the sake of simplicity we will just say that it includes any publication that was published prior to you inventing your invention.
What you are looking for is any complete disclosure of your invention, anywhere in any document, including on the internet. If you find such a publication, then you should probably not file a patent application. Remember, as the inventor, you get a one-year grace period in the US between disclosing your own invention and filing your patent application. But if someone else has disclosed it, you do not get a grace period and you cannot file a patent application The one-year grace period is only for your own publication! Professional prior art searches can cost many thousands of dollars – we assume you wish to avoid that. So we will show you how to do a simple search.
The simplest way to do a prior art search is in three stages:
(i) Search the internet using a search engine such as Google® or DuckDuckGo.
(ii) Search using the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) database.
(iii) Do an international patent search using the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) search engine or the European Intellectual Patent Office search engine (links given below).
Step 1 – Internet searching using Google or a similar search engine is very easy. The main thing is to spend as much time as you can using every alternative combination of words you can think of. For example, if you have invented a new can for tinned food container that you open with a zipper system, then you should combine words and phrases such as “can” “canned” “canned goods” “canned food” “tin can” “food tin” “container” “containment” “zip” “zipper” “fastener” “seal” “sealing” “reseal” “resealable” etc. The more combinations, the better.
Step 2 – Using the USPTO search engine is also easy, simply do the following.
– Go to http://patft.uspto.gov/ (or start at the main page www.uspto.gov and look for patent searching).
– You will see two search options – one for Patents and one for Applications. They may be called “USPTO Patent Full-Text and Image Database (PatFT)” and “USPTO Patent Application Full-Text and Image Database (AppFT)”. Obviously one of these searches is for issued patents and one of them is for published patent applications that have not yet issued as patents. Both count equally as prior art, so you must do both searches.
– Select a search option and select “Quick Search”. The page you will see will look like this.