Can I do my own patent research?
I would have to say it depends. I absolutely would recommend, before you do your research, going to trade shows and physical store locations. Like, say you have a new fishing lure or fishing related idea. Absolutely go to Bass Pro shops, for example, where you can see the largest inventory. Make sure that the product is not available. Check physical catalogs for the idea. Once you start searching online, you have to be extremely careful. And I may have a separate segment on Ask The Patent Professor on the risks. But essentially, there are marketing companies out there that are tracking online search activity. And that's why if, for example, if you do searches relating to a funeral, for example, you'll start seeing on the sidebar, you'll start seeing advertising for flowers, because those search terms are seen. Now the problem with an idea is that if you type in too much, you might give away the idea. And the example would be a glow in the dark kite. If that's your idea,a glow in the dark kite, and you type in “glow in the dark kite” on search engines, it doesn't take a lot of imagination for somebody to figure out what your concept is. So what I would do, if you are going to do your own searching, is start with a physical store, start with actual paper catalogs. And then go to the Patent Office website. Don't do your searches on Google, don't do them on Amazon. But do them at the Patent Office website based on class and subclass. And those are not keyword searches. Those are searches specifically in categories. So it's less likely for you to reveal your idea. It's also a lot more accurate, because if your concept is a hose, and you type in the term, h-o-s-e, if somebody has a patent and they refer to it as a pipe, that patent is relevant, but it's not going to come up in your search because you're doing a keyword search. So there's a lot of pitfalls to doing your own research. I wouldn't say don't do it at all, but just be extremely careful. And I think what would make sense is to have a separate segment, a PPTV segment on searching—doing your own search for patents.
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