Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

How to Conduct a Patent Search to Make Sure Your Brilliant Invention Doesn't Already Exist (Infographic)


Ding! The light bulb goes off. Or maybe it’s been burning in the back of your brain for years. You have an incredible idea for an invention.


It’s so amazing it might be the next big thing, the thing that makes you millions. Your brainchild is so special -- and so potentially lucrative -- that it would be a shame if someone ripped it off. They could cash in on it instead of you. Uh oh, you’d better protect your baby with a patent and fast.

But what if someone’s beat you to the punch? What if someone’s already hatched a similar product or process and patented it? How can you be sure a patent for your invention isn’t already taken?

Related: A 5-Step Reality Check for Inventors

You have two choices: You could 1) hire a patent attorney (for a pretty penny) to run a patent search for you, or 2) you could conduct a patent search yourself. While the second option will likely chew up more time and brainpower, it could save you a lot of money, perhaps even enough to help bootstrap the launch of your dream product or service.

If you opt to run your own patent search, good on you, there are plenty of resources available online to help you navigate the many and often tricky steps involved. Lucky for you DIY types, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has put together a list of 7 steps you should take to complete a thorough, effective search. The exhaustive, acronym-packed guide covers everything from how to retrieve and review issued patents and published patent applications, to how to sift through the U.S. Patent Classification System, to how to conduct a classification search of Cooperative Patent Classification Class Schemes and...uh, confused yet? Exactly.

Related: Don't File That Patent Yet

No one has time for all that. Thankfully the bright minds at Idea Buyer, an online marketplace for intellectual property, have done most of the research legwork for you, neatly condensing the USPTO guide.

Check out the infographic below for a crash course in how to conduct a patent search, and to figure out if you should even seek a patent at all. Good luck! We’re crossing our fingers for you.  

Click to Enlarge+
How to Conduct a Patent Search to Make Sure Your Brilliant Invention Doesn't Already Exist (Infographic)


Entrepreneur Editors' Picks