The first step in the patent application process is almost always a patentability search. While searches are never exhaustive, they will often help the patent attorney, as well as the inventor(s), determine whether the invention, or in some cases a portion of the invention, may be patentable.
Importantly, the United States Patent & Trademark Office (“USPTO”) will not grant a patent on an invention that is already known or otherwise already in the public domain. Thus, the goal of most patentability searches is to find any patents, patent applications, and sometimes other publications, that are similar to the proposed invention. Based on the search results, an informed decision can be made as to whether to proceed to the next step of applying for a patent.