…or, more specifically, use Google Patent.

Typically, if we want to find the answer to a question or just want information on a subject our first port of call is Google.

We do it almost everyday.

If you have an idea for a new product or service then Google is certainly a useful first step. But if you want a more focused approach, one that can quickly provide an overview of developments in a technical field, then Google Patent is the place to go.

It’s a free service that allows you to search for patents based on keywords. In a matter of a few hours you can become familiar with some of the patents that are being filed in a particular field and where they are being filed. If you identify a patent that is perhaps close to your development then you can easily search for other patents that are related. In this way you can build a picture of how your product or service might be different (or the same!) to those already known.

Being relatively knowledgeable about patents in your field has real value. It can impact on your own developments, uncover opportunities and perhaps identify other players in the field who could be friends or foes. It can also identify risks that your business may be exposed to so that you can manage these.

While we would not recommend such searching forms the basis for any legal decision, it can offer a low cost, initial view of the global patent landscape, a landscape which, if you are going to launch a new product or service, you are likely operating in.

Armed with the results of your Google Patent search you can then visit your local patent attorney who has access to more sophisticated subscription databases to obtain targeted information and advice regarding the value of your new development.