Should I conduct a patent search?

As a business owner, you know the importance of protecting your intellectual property (IP) from competitors who might “take inspiration” from your ideas and innovations. One way to safeguard your IP is via patent protection, which grants you the exclusive right to make, use, and sell your invention for a limited period. However, before embarking on the patent application process and filing patent applications, it can be useful to conduct a patent search to determine whether your invention is truly new and non-obvious. In this article, we’ll explore when you should engage a patent attorney to conduct a patent search.

What is a patent search?

A patent search involves reviewing existing patents, patent applications, and other relevant publications (including journal articles, videos etc.) to determine whether an invention is already known and publicly disclosed. A thorough patent search can:

  • help identify competitors;
  • reduce the risk of infringement if your invention is already patented; and
  • reveal similar inventions that could affect the patentability of your invention.

When Should You Conduct a Patent Search?

It can be helpful to conduct a patent search early in the invention and patent application process. The earlier you conduct a patent search, the better you can assess the patentability of your invention and avoid costly mistakes. Below some specific situations when you should engage a patent attorney to conduct a patent search:


1.  Before You Develop Your Invention

Before investing too much time and resources in developing your invention, a patent search can determine if similar inventions already exist. If your invention is not novel, you can save yourself the effort of developing it further and potentially infringing someone else’s patent.


2.  Before You File a Patent Application

The patent application process can be long and expensive. Before filing your patent applications, it can be insightful to conduct a patent search to discover if there is anything similar to your invention which might be an obstacle to the patentability of your invention or potentially restrict the scope of patent protection available.


3.  Before You Launch 

A patent search can also help ensure that the commercialisation of your invention won’t infringe any existing patents. This kind of search is also known as a ‘freedom-to-operate’ search and can help answer whether you are free to make, sell, import etc. your invention in certain countries.


Should you engage a patent attorney to conduct a patent search?

While you can conduct a patent search yourself using free online databases, engaging a patent attorney has several advantages:



Patent attorneys have the expertise to search based on the technology area of your invention, rather than keywords, which helps locate foreign language documents. Patent attorneys are also skilled at interpreting patent documents and understanding precisely what is covered by a patent.


Access to Databases

Patent attorneys usually have access to databases that are not available to the public, which can provide a more comprehensive search.


Legal Opinion

Patent attorneys can provide a legal opinion on the patentability of your invention, infringement risks, and advise you on the best course of action.

Is a patent search right for me?

Patent searching can help determine the patentability of your invention (whether it is new and inventive) and whether commercialisation of your invention might infringe competitor patents. Conducting a patent search can help you answer these big questions early on before committing too much time and money to an invention that is not patentable or would infringe third-party patents. If you’re interested in patent protection and commercialising your invention, chat with a patent attorney to discuss whether patent searching would be worthwhile.