Invention Idea Advice: What You Can Do Before Paying For A Patent Search

Is My Great New Invention Idea Already Out There?

Free tips that you can do before paying for a patent search.

OK. So you’ve got this great idea for a product and you’ve asked a few people about it and they think it’s great. And you’re starting to see the dollar signs flashing. Great!

You’re pretty sure you’ve never seen anything like your idea before, but how do you know that no one’s producing it and you just haven’t seen it? Or maybe someone invented it already and patented it but it never made it into the marketplace.

Here are some simple tips on how you can find out so that you can finally start moving from idea to profitable product:


* Go to a store where your product would be sold and search for your product.

* Ask the sales person if they have a product that performs the tast that yours would.

* When describing your product idea, always remember to be discreet and somewhat vague.

* Ask the sales person about buyers for your product category. You could say, “I’m doing research on this product category, would you know the name of the buyer who purchases this product category for you store?” If the sales person doesn’t, ask them who would know.

* Call buyers in your product category. When calling a buyer, you could say, “My name is ___________ from _______ company (you need to make up a company name). We are considering developing a product in your buying category and we (always use “we”) would like to know if you’ve ever seen anything like it?” Then give a brief description of the way your product works.

* It is a calculated risk to describe your product idea to store buyers since they have not signed a confidentiality agreement, so keep it as general as possible. However, store buyers are generally so busy that they have no desire to run off and make your product.


Of course a more immediate and thorough way to find out if your product idea already exists is to do a patent search.

* Sooner or later you will have to do a patent search if you intent to patent your invention. Contrary to popular belief, a patent does not protect “ideas,” it protects the specific mechanical way you carry out that idea (Utility Patent) or the specific way any product looks (Design Patent).

* You can do the search yourself by going to the US Patent And Trademark Website: An alternate popular free patent database is

* Although it can be quite expensive, hiring a patent attorney to do your patent search assures that you obtain the most comprehensive and specialized results.

* Sometimes professional industrial design firms also provide the service of conducting patent searches and helping you write your patent for a fraction of what it would cost to hire a patent attorney.

I started my own design company, Tarlow Design, in 1984. During the past 25 years, I have designed over 400 products worth over one billion dollars in retail sales. For more helpful info on product development or patent searches, please visit