A patent search is one of the first steps an inventor must take towards obtaining patent protection. The purpose of a patent search is to identify existing patent applications that could affect your invention’s eligibility. Patent searches can be complicated, but it’s essential to be thorough to ensure your intellectual property (IP) receives the best possible protection. In the following article, Bold Patents explores a frequently asked question amongst inventors—do you need to search pending patent applications too? What does a patent search entail? Patent searches are often called “prior art searches” because they encompass more than just existing patents. The checklist below outlines a few areas of attention that patent searches must cover to be thorough: \tPublished works \tSale or use of identical products in an existing market \tPatents and pending patents \tGeneral knowledge of the invention in the public domain Who can perform a patent search? Anyone can perform a patent search. However, not everyone can gather the same intel from a patent search as an expert would. There are several free patent search tools at the disposal of inventors—for example, the USPTO Patent Search and Google Patents. Although these tools may help cut corners now, an insufficient search could result in costly IP issues later on. It’s essential to note that the requirements of your patent search could vary depending on the nature of your invention. It’s always recommended to seek the help of an experienced IP expert or attorney. Do I need to search pending patent applications? You should always search pending patent applications in addition to those that have been granted. In general, patent applications are published 18 months after the initial filing. After the 18 month mark, they’ll be made available for public search and review—regardless of filing status. Keep in mind that even if you search pending patent applications, you may not be provided with information about all inventions that are similar to yours. However, a pending patent search can be useful for gathering information regarding competitors. Inventors can then use that intel to adjust or improve their IP to better secure its foothold in the market. How do I search pending patent applications? Both the USPTO and Google Patents search engines mentioned above can assist you in your pending patent search. It’s unlikely that you’ll have specific patent numbers. But there are several other ways to search pending patent applications. For example, you can use keywords, patent owners, or known inventors to enhance the comprehensiveness of your search. Here are a few tips that can help you search pending patent applications as thoroughly as possible: \tUtilize Advanced Search options. \tFamiliarize yourself with the patent classification system. \tUse multiple search engines. \tCompile an extensive list of varying keywords to search. \tPartner with a trusted IP professional. Are all patent applications public? Despite being typically published 18 months after USPTO filing, all patent applications are not public. There are several instances where a patent application may not be searchable by normal means. For example, an inventor may make a non-publication request to keep the invention private throughout the patenting process. Government-related innovations may also be confidential. Provisional patent applications are never published, but it is still possible to request access for patent search review. Bold Patents helps hundreds of inventors obtain optimal protection for their intellectual property. Whether you need to search for pending patents or need to determine if your invention is even eligible for protection, call us at 866-460-3244 or schedule a screening session. We’re here to help.