The patent search is an important tool in the patent process. Unfortunately, like snow flakes, no two patent searches are alike. For this reason, you will want to know what methods your patent attorney will use to perform his or her patent search and the problems that can result.
Online Electronic Search
The internet now allows patent searches to be performed online. The United States Patent & Trademark Office has a free searchable database at www.uspto.gov. A problem with this site is that the results are text-only and do not show illustrations of the patented inventions. Full patents can be ordered for a fee, as either printable download or can be ordered by mail.
Another online searchable database is Delphion, www.delphion.com. This is a paid subscription service that provides search results, including illustrations, in PDF format. Delphion provides much more powerful search and organization capabilities, but is more cumbersome to use.
The advantage of electronic searches is that you can type in keywords and get your results. The problem is that the online databases only contain the more recent patents. Also, no matter how carefully you have selected your keywords, it is possible that you will miss patents that use different words or phrases to describe the same invention. That is why hiring professionals, such as Invent Help would be wise.
Search At The United States Patent & Trademark Office
The United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) has a large warehouse that stores all of the six-million plus issued United States Patents. This warehouse is open to the public for searching and copying of patents. Patents are organized by classes and subclasses, as determined by the USPTO.
Because of the organization, once you find the right class/subclass, you can essentially search those patents by comparing the illustrations and text to your invention.
The advantage of performing a search at the USPTO is that you can quickly and easily search through large numbers of relevant patents. The problem is that you have to fly out to Washington D.C. to do this. This can be incredibly expensive, depending how far away you live from the capital.
Professional Search Service
The method that InventHelp use for performing a patent search is to hire a professional searcher, stationed in Washington D.C. Professional searchers are not patent attorneys, they merely conduct searches that are requested by an inventor or patent attorney. They perform these searches in the USPTO warehouse. These professionals can find the class/subclass for your invention much faster than you can, and they are much cheaper than a plane ticket to Washington D.C.
These services usually cost a few hundred dollars. Upon receiving the results of the search, your patent attorney can then prepare a “Patentability Opinion”. The “Patentability Opinion” distinguishes the features of your invention from the patents found in the search. From this opinion, you can make an informed decision as to whether to continue with filing a patent application.