Ending Soon! Save 33% on All Access

How to Conduct a Patent Search to Make Sure Your Brilliant Invention Doesn't Already Exist (Infographic) A step-by-step guide on how to find out if your invention has already been patented. We're crossing our fingers it hasn't.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


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)

Kim Lachance Shandrow

Former West Coast Editor

Kim Lachance Shandrow is the former West Coast editor at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, she was a commerce columnist at Los Angeles CityBeat, a news producer at MSNBC and KNBC in Los Angeles and a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times. She has also written for Government Technology magazine, LA Yoga magazine, the Lowell Sun newspaper, HealthCentral.com, PsychCentral.com and the former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Coop. Follow her on Twitter at @Lashandrow. You can also follow her on Facebook here

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Business News

More People Are Exploring Entrepreneurship Because of This Unexpected Reason

More new business applications were filed in 2023 than in any other year so far.

Business News

TikTok Reportedly Laid Off a 'Large Percentage' of Employees as the App's Fate in the U.S. Remains Unclear

Laid-off TikTok employees were notified Wednesday night through Thursday morning.

Business News

Four Seasons Orlando Responds to Viral TikTok: 'There's Something Here For All Ages'

The video has amassed over 45.4 million views on TikTok.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.

Personal Finance

This Investment Bundle Includes a Trading Course and Stock Screener Tool for $150

Approach the stock market with an increased understanding.