A patent search (also called an invention search or a prior art search) is important to tell you if someone else has already applied for, or been granted a patent for the same or similar invention as your own.
A basic patent search includes a search of the USPTO patent database. It should include a search of both issued patents and published patent applications. Most patent applications are published by the USPTO at about 18 months after the filing date. However, there are some circumstances in which a patent application is not published unless and until it issues as a patent.
Patent Search or Prior Art Search?
A patent search and prior art search are generally the same thing. One might argue that a prior art search is broader, as it takes into account any and all forms of prior art – not just patents and patent applications. However, the specific meaning of these terms may vary from one patent attorney to another. Be sure to check with your patent attorney about the scope of your search.
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