For many clients, especially entrepreneurs seeking a first patent in a particular field, a prudent first step is a search for relevant prior art. This patentability search looks for issued patents and published patent applications. The patentability search may be expanded to also look for other forms of prior art such as technical papers or products. Patentability searches have blind spots, but conducting a patentability search can greatly reduce the risk of getting an unpleasant surprise of relevant prior art during the patent application process.
The most cost effective way to proceed is to work with a client to draft a detailed description of what sort of prior art is being sought and then to hire a search firm. The search firm uses ex-patent examiners and other technical specialists to find the relevant prior art. Each searcher has a specific technology focus. The searchers have access to specialized data bases and have hourly rates well below that of a patent attorney.
Frequently, the search is guided by a draft patent claim that addresses a specific feature in the improved product or service rather than searching for all patents on a given product or service. The results of the patentability search may be reviewed by FLYNN IP LAW. Some clients like to do the initial review of the search results and then seek input from FLYNN IP LAW on only a subset of the search results to reduce costs.
While it may be discouraging to find that an invention actually converges on a good idea previously had by others, it is better to find this out early in the process so that resources can be redirected rather than wasted pursuing a dead end.