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Introduction to Patents
Glossary of Patent Terms
Invention Disclosure
Patent Related Links

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9. What is a patent search?

The inventor can pay a patent search company to search previously issued U.S. patents to see if the invention already exists. Foreign patents may also be searched, however the cost can increase considerably. If the search is successful, and indeed the invention does already exist, the inventor is then spared the expense of trying to obtain a patent on something which is not patentable. On the other hand, if the search does not uncover any previous patent which contains the features of the invention, it does not guarantee that a patent may be obtained. For example, the searcher may not fully understand the principles of the invention, may simply miss a pertinent prior art reference, or the Examiner may have access to prior art not known by the searcher (for example a magazine article or a foreign patent which describes a device identical to the invention). Therefore, the results of an unsuccessful search should always be viewed with some caution.

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