I’ve written before about the importance of a prior art search. First, an inventor should do a prior art search. Then the inventor should hire a professional prior art search company to do a prior art search. Prior art searches don’t uncover everything, though. A prior art search will uncover patents and published patent applications. You know what it won’t uncover? Commercialized products!
Picture the following scenario. Inventor A invents a product and starts selling it. No patent application. Inventor B invents the same product, not knowing that it has already been invented by Inventor A. Inventor B files a patent application. Inventor B is technically the first to file a patent application, so Inventor B should get the patent, right? Perhaps, but what good is the patent?
The product is already being sold by Inventor A. That constitutes a public disclosure. Inventor B could go through all the time and expense of filing for a patent. Inventor B may even obtain the patent. But anyone can challenge the patent by proving that Inventor A was already selling it at the time Inventor B applied for the patent, putting the validity of Inventor B’s patent in jeopardy.
The moral of the story? In addition to doing a prior art search, which turns up patents and published patent applications, also do an Internet search for the product. Is it being sold online or in stores already? If so, you probably shouldn’t bother applying for a patent. If you can’t find the product online, and your own prior art search doesn’t unearth anything, get a professional prior art search done. It’s much better to spend the money on a prior art search than to go through the trouble of getting a patent issued only to realize that it can be invalidated.