If you’ve been involved in projects that have included patent work, you know it can be quite costly and time consuming. Depending on where you are in the process of your venture, you may be searching, filing, waiting, reworking, owning or protecting (suing or being sued). All of which cost money.
Back in 2006 Google stepped in to make at least the searching of patents much less intimidating, and true to form, it’s called Google Patents.
Everything in the database is pulled from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and covers the full collection of issued patents and millions of patent applications issued in the 1790s through the present.
Patent searches from the pros typically cost $500 – $1500 and what you should be getting for the money is their expert eye of knowing if similar looking patents are really similar and what really constitutes a uniquely patentable product or function. Look to Google Patents simply to get a feel for competing or similar patents for free.
Most importantly don’t get down on yourself and throw in towel if you see something close to what you are doing. Again, the real pros can advise you on your options in both actual design and description changes to be unique enough to file, or how to work with patent holders to obtain the proper license to use the existing patent.