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How do I do a patent search?

The PTO maintains an online database where you can search for all patents issued since 1976 and all patent applications that have been published since 2001.¬†There are also a variety of commercial services which will allow you to conduct patent database searches - some charge a fee for searches while others are free, such as IBM’s Delphion (although they offer fee-based searches too).

While the internet is a great resource, it is also possible to conduct patent searches “the old fashioned way.”¬†Throughout the country are Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries which contain both a plethora of patent-related materials and reference librarians to assist you in your search through the materials.

Finally, you can also seek the assistance of a patent attorney or a patent agent, who can conduct a refined search based upon the specifics of your invention.