What is a patent search?
A patent search involves looking for existing U.S. patents or published U.S. patent applications (i.e., the prior art) that are relevant to determining whether your invention is novel and nonobvious. This is usually done using the online database located at www.uspto.gov after the inventor discloses the invention to a patent attorney.
Why do a patent search?
A patent search usually provides many benefits. First, it can provide an indication of how likely the PTO is to allow a patent to issue on a certain invention, which may ultimately save the inventor money. Second, it often provides patent attorneys with valuable information on the relevant field of the invention. Third, it may help the inventor focus on features of his or her invention that are more likely to be patentable.
Does a favorable opinion on patentability always result in a patent?
Unfortunately, it does not. Some existing patent applications may not be available at the time of the patent search, and others may be misclassified so that the references are very difficult to find. Even if all relevant prior art is found, the PTO has the final say on the patentability of an invention.