How is that for a provocative subject for today’s blog?

But, if you are like most inventors – you are almost certainly doing patent searches all wrong.

To find out if you are doing a patent search right (or wrong) simply answer one simple question for me:

What is the primary reason why you’re doing a patent search on your new product idea?

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Would you like to learn how to license your invention for royalties and make some money?

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Here are two possible answers to the question I posed above – Why are you doing a patent search on your product idea?

  1. To make sure there is nothing out there like my invention.
  2. To discover what is out there like my product idea.

Which of the above answers best resembles your answer?

Do these two answers seem quite similar – with just slight nuances in difference? Actually they are quite different.

If you answered 1. above,  you are assuming, right from the start – that your invention is truly unique – that there is almost certainly nothing quite like your product out there. You’re just doing a patent search to simply validate what you have already decided is true.

You have fallen into the trap of confirmation bias – the tendency to focus on anything that may confirm your belief – and, at the same time, shutting out anything that might disprove your belief. Your goal is not to find anything.

In the case of 2. above, you assume it is quite possible that there is something out there similar to your product. That means you are genuinely looking to find one or more things like your product. You hope not to find it, but you look in earnest anyways.

Our Beliefs Shape Our Behavior – Which Shapes our Actions – And Results

Let’s say you are operating based upon assumption 1. above and you have an idea for a new, improved , slim men’s wallet that holds a lot of cards but stays slim and flexible. That describes my invention which is already patented – so it is out there for sure.

So, you dutifully go to the U.S. Patent Office website and do a simple keyword search on issued patents since 1976 (the best place to start).

Let’s say you do two keyword searches on “thin billfold” and :”thin wallet,” here is what you would find:

  • “Thin billfold” – nothing found
  • “Thin wallet” – 35 items found, only 3 are truly wallets – my patent doesn’t show in the list

You might say to yourself, “Yay! Just as I thought, nothing out there like my item.” Then, declare victory and report you had done a “thorough” search of the patent database.

And you’d be wrong on both counts.

There were over 30 issued patents for somewhat similar wallets to mine when I searched 17 years ago. Odds are, there are likely to be over 100 somewhat similar items now. But your cursory search turned up only two thin wallets and didn’t find mine at all.

If you were operating under assumption 2. above, you might have searched on more keyword combinations, including:

  • “Slim wallet” – 6 items found (mine is not included)
  • “Slim billfold” – 0 items found
  • “Wallet” – 14,229 items (mine is buried deep in the list)
  • “Bill fold” – 61 items found (mine is not included)

Why is my patent so conspicuously missing from the “slim” and “thin” searches?

Because, though my patent describes a “thin” or “slim” wallet (or bill fold), that specific phrase (“slim wallet” or “thin wallet”) does not appear in the patent. You must go to a broader search – “wallet” to find it from a very large list of items.

Since you assumed you might find some things that were similar – and you did – you might then decide to “get some help” by seeking out a patent attorney or agent. Good idea.

This choice would indeed cost you some money, perhaps $500. But, it could cost you thousands if you simply charged ahead and began making and selling your not particularly unique item. That would be a huge mistake.

Stay tuned!

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Do you have a tight budget for inventing? If so, click on the blue button below for helpful resources.

Would you like to learn how to license your invention for royalties and make some money?

If so, click on the orange button below to attend our FREE live webinar – Licensing Your Invention for Royalties – now. I’ll see you in the webinar!