As with any research project, the depth of the search and time taken will depend upon the purpose of the search. In performing a patentability search prior to the preparation and filing of a patent application, it is advisable to spend enough time to form an idea of the state of the art and the relevant patents in the technical field. However, it is not cost effective to do an exhaustive search.

A U.S. patent examiner will have at most several hours in which to do a search after you file your patent application. The patentability search is typically of similar scope and should not cost more than 5-10% of the cost of preparation of the patent application by an experienced patent attorney. A much more thorough search should be performed if the purpose of the search is to avoid infringement of patents owned by others.

The initial search will provide an idea regarding the extent of research in a particular technology. Even when you feel that your invention is still patentable, the search will provide some guidance as to the types of claims that may be possible to obtain as you can read from

Every patent attorney can tell you about the inventor who comes to their office convinced that their invention is revolutionary, only to find that there are numerous patents that are relevant, if not exactly the same as the invention. A search does assist in the drafting of a patent application in providing the types of vocabulary that is used in the art as well as a starting point in drafting the background sections of the application.

When searching for prior art, it is advisable to think of several synonyms for basic words, as well as different forms or tenses of the same word. If you should find a large number of patents, then you should consider whether there are additional words that can narrow the search criteria. It is also possible to search by patents owned by a particular company or by inventor.

One of the best ways to narrow your search is to utilize the detailed classification systems that both the United States and international organizations have developed. Once you determine the class or classes and subclasses for your technology, there may be a much narrower focused list of patent to review. The US patent classification system is searchable online on the USPTO web site. You can find much more information on

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