One of the first steps in evaluating your product idea is to conduct your own initial patent search, for free!
How do you do this? Simple, go to the patent office website:
Click on “patents” and then under “Searching Full Text Patents (Since 1976)” click on Quick Search
If you had an improved shovel, then put into Term 1 Improved Shovel.
In this example, you will receive 33 results, all of which have some relevancy. Depending upon the broadness (or specificity) of your search team in the quick search, you may get a few results as above or even hundreds or thousands of hits. Remember, you are searching anywhere within the body of the patent in this step for your search term. If you get a very large number of hits, consider narrowing your search term.
Click on one of the patents and read about it in some detail. Click on “images” to see the drawings with the patent. If no drawings show up, you will need to have a TIFF reader loaded on your computer as all image files are .TIFF (not .JPG) for USPTO.gov. A free download is available from http://www.alternatiff.com – just follow the instructions for the download.
Browse through the various patents listed and make a point to write down the patent numbers for each one that seems to have some relevancy to your product.
This completes your high-level first pass of patents on USPTO.gov.
Stay tuned for more!