To often I get contacted by Inventors that have paid for a patent search long before they should have spent any money. They either contacted a Patent Lawyer or an Invention Submission company and were told the first thing they need to do is conduct a patent search. Which of course costs a fee.
The correct action should have been for the Inventor to do their research first which only costs them their time. With free access to the patent office website and other search engines such as google.com/patents you can do a lot of your own research for free.
I am amazed at how many Inventors don’t even do a word or image search in Google to see what shows up… again free. Go to any store and look at how many products you see that are not covered by a patent. These will not show up in a patent search and neither will the PPA’s that could already be filed on your same product idea. Look at the amount of posts/ads you see in any Inventor related sites that push spending your money on patents and patent searches. Why? Because they have nothing to lose. They are not going in debt, you are, so it is easy for them to say go for it. Plus, you are making them richer. Not yourself.
You will find out that in a lot of cases the idea you first come up with and the final product may not even be close to each other by the time you get the final version and is not covered by the patent you filed. Keep in mind your patent is only as good as the Claims you are able to get granted. And most companies prefer utility patents over design patents because design patents are easier to go around.
Ask patent lawyers what percentage of patented items actually make it to market? You will find that the success rate is extremely low. The former head of the USPTO had said in one of his presentations that the rate was around 4% that actually made it to store shelves. So that means 96% wasted their money. Granted some people don’t care if their product makes it to market. They just want to be able to say they have a patent. Which is fine. But If you want to see a return on your investment, not just a piece of paper you can hang on the wall, you will want to do your best to research your idea first.
Stop buying into the hype and fear someone will steal your idea if you don’t pay for a patent search and file for protection right away. Do as much of your due diligence up front for free and make informed decisions.