Conduct a patent search

It pays to know whether you’re the first to patent


Are you the first to file?

Being the first to patent is crucial in the provisional patent process. Plain and simple: If somebody else has already patented your idea, then you can’t apply for a patent. Conducting a patent search before applying for a provisional can save you time and money.

Read through this in-depth walk through to learn more on how to conduct a thorough patent search.


patent searches are the key to startup success

It’s a big world out there, and even though sometimes it can feel like we’re all alone, in the case of startup ideas, this is definitely not the case. We can assure you that somewhere out there in the world, there’s competition.

Don’t believe us?

According to Entrepreneur Magazine, the top 10 terms that have increased in use over the past few years are:

Virtual Reality, Machine Learning, Natural Language, Ingredients, Cyber, Artificial Intelligence, Reality, Automates, Sensors, and Feedback

There’s a high probability that your startup encompasses at least one of these terms, and an even higher chance that someone out there has looked at creating an idea similar to yours. That’s why it pays to conduct a thorough patent search. You’ll make yourself fully aware of all patents that are published, prior art that already exists on your topic, and keep up-to-date on competitor activity.

A patent search is always the second step in the provisional patent application, after you’ve defined your idea. Patent searches are the key to understanding competitors, current patents, prior art, and where your idea falls in the general landscape of your industry.


The No-Frills Patent Search

There are three broad areas that you should look into when finding out more about your competitors through patent searches. By looking into these areas, you can be assured that no one else has your idea, and you’ll be much more knowledgeable about competitor activity. It’s a win-win no matter which way you look at it.

When you’re applying for a provisional patent, before you even draft your application, you’ll want to conduct a thorough search to make sure that your idea hasn’t already been patented.

Step 1: Search online for patents

Step 2: Read through technical articles and books

Step 3: A regular, simple Google search (but with more flair)


Step 1: Free(!) Online Patent Search

Look no further if you want to to know whether or not someone patented your idea.

There are a number of free search engines available to research your idea, and they’re not too difficult to use. However, if you’d like support, we’re always here to help you with your search. While many of the search engines aren’t initially difficult to use, you may have some questions when you started to dig deeper into the details of your search.

Here are a few free online patent search engines:

1) Google Patent Search: Just like your regular, everyday Google search—but with patents! Simply plug in keywords and check out your search results. Just like a Google search, you may want to experiment with keywords to see which results are more relevant. Keep in mind, the buzzwords that you should look for will differ based on industry. By consulting someone who knows about your chosen industry, you will have much more accurate search results.

If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can check out Advanced Google Patent Search and look for patents that are filed by specific companies. Of course, you’ll need to be up-to-date on your competitive landscape in order to know which companies to search for.

The red circle above shows where to enter the company name, located in the “Original Assignee” field of Advanced Google Patent Search.

2) Espacenet patent searching: For Europeans, or anyone interested in obtaining a patent in Europe, Espacenet is your answer to European patent searches. Espacenet is offered by the European Patent Office, and is similar to Google—simply plug in your keywords and search away to your heart’s desire.

Similar to Google Patent Search, there is also an advanced version of Espacenet. In the advanced Espacenet patent search, you can break down your search even further. You can search by company or inventor name, patent number—and more!


Step 2: Search for technical articles and books

You can save yourself a trip to the local public library and search online for technical articles and books related to your idea.

By using the Google Combined Patent and Article search, you can search for technical or scientific articles, and books — in addition to patents.

Make sure that the box in the red circle is checked off, and you can include technical articles and books in your search. Finally, enter your keywords and see the results.


Step 3: A regular, but targeted Google search

A regular Google search is anything but boring if you’re up-to-date on your keywords and have a clear understanding of what you’d like to research. You can use a regular Google search to check out your competitors’ activity.

Pro tip: Flag keywords and sign up to receive weekly updates on them from Google News.


Click below to visit our FAQ to learn about the basics of patent search:


Click below to learn more about a prior art patent search:



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Reach out to an expert if you’re stuck on your search

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