After you have your invention formulated, and your patent information in hand - your first step is to prepare for a patent search. If you have been listening - you already have been keeping a journal on the development of your new invention.

Now it is time to put that patent information into a form for the patent searcher and/or attorney. Here are some elements that should be included:

•  Describe clearly what your invention is - and what makes your invention different from anything that has gone before. Don’t be general. If your invention is “better,” describe WHY is it better - WHAT MAKES it better. Use terms and descriptions as they are understood in your field. If you use terms differently, explain.

•  Describe all the parts - and how all the parts work together.

•  Explain why you did things the way you did - and why you did not do them some other way. Is there another way you could have accomplished the same result? If so, explain it.

•  If you have made a prototype - don’t limit your thinking to just it - present the best way you think your invention could be built - and any alternate way(s). How else might it work?

•  Discuss how much your invention patent information would have to change before it is no longer your invention. Are there less desirable - but still useful ways - to make your invention work? Ask, "if this part were left out, or changed, would the remaining device still be my invention?" Or, "if this part were changed or left out, would the invention still work?

•  Point out what IS NOT part of your invention patent information - like what is old about your invention idea - the root of the idea - has it been used before? - used for a different purpose? - how have people done the same function or process before? - distinguish what is new and different (“unique”) from what is existing.

•  Explain if you hadn't invented the invention, where would you go to find one? - What catalogs, publications, etc. would you look in? - To what extent have you looked? - Who would be likely to purchase or use the invention? - Do you know of any publications, which might describe the invention or its competitors?

•  What are the problems? - What would make your invention NOT work? - Are there critical parts - size or dimensions? - Ingredients?

•  Drawings showing the function of your invention are always helpful to formulate your patent information - and if you have a prototype, great. If possible, label and explain the sketches to detail your invention. Be sure all essential parts are shown on the sketch, and try not to include extraneous details in your patent information. Measurements are not required, unless they are essential to the operation of the invention.

•  When did you first begin to work on the invention? - Has the invention been built? - Have you described it to anyone? - Who and when?

Because utility patent protection is only available for new, useful and nonobvious inventions a patent search will save some effort and money if there is existing patent information that is found that covers the scope of your invention. If the search reveals no prior patents that are substantially close to the proposed invention, it is likely that a patent may be obtained for the invention.

It is also likely that patents will be found that are in the same technology, and sometimes are very close to your “new” invention. But if your invention patent information adds a new twist to an old idea, is useful, and meets the test of “non-obviousness” (which can be determined by a patent attorney with comparing your patent to the patents found in the search), you still have a shot at getting a patent - and will justify at least submitting a patent application.

You are looking at typical fees for a patent search in the range of $250-$600. A relatively small price to pay to keep you from paying $3,000-$10,000 (depending on field and complexity) for a patent application and its prosecution on an invention that is found not to be patentable.

A crude, preliminary assessment can be made essentially for free by searching the online databases of post-1977 U.S. patents which are available at internet sites such as the IBM Patent Information Server

or patent information from the USPTO Patent Search

The problem being that you do need some background in searching to get into the right art group and sub-group to make your search. It is best to hire an experienced hand to get the best results.

These are the basics of getting patent information through a patent search. Watch out - here comes the mantra: For best results, consult with a patent attorney - it is less expensive in the long run and saves you a passel of trouble.

Another thing. I have just made contact with my favorite searcher and did another search with absolutely competent results ( the results were complete but the invention idea was already patented - in the 1800's).

The searcher firm's name appropriately is ... ACCUSEARCH. If you need help in preparing your idea for searching - contact me through my contact page and I will help you prepare for ACCUSEARCH results.