First of all, this is not presented as THE way to research a concept; it is simply an outline of the way "I" do it, which has resulted in 42% of my submissions reaching G7.... and no R6's! I've also discovered that anytime I "skirt" the following process, I get R4's... coincidence? I think not!
Lack of thorough RESEARCH is the cause of Red X's (rejections) more than ANY other thing here at Edison Nation, but it also applies to prospective viable inventions that are pursued in ANY arena.... it's tedious work at first and it takes practice to be effective, but doing so will increase the number of submissions that are presented to companies who are looking for new products! If YOU are sick of R4's, this article is for you!
I do both patent/competing-product searches at the same time because they share a lot of steps so there's no use having to do it twice on the same item, plus, you can (1) uncover relevant similar products and (2) even come upon new uses/alterations that will add value to your OWN concept.... also, you must come to grips with the fact that sometimes regardless how good of a search you do, pertinent things will still get past you. With that in mind you must remember you're primary goal is to FIND prior art; if you go into it hoping to NOT find any, you're motivation is wrong which will affect the mental parameters and cause you to overlook things.
Get you a pencil and notebook and get your lap-top in a quiet place where the "rhythm" will less likely to be broken.
Step 1 - Go to Google search (not google patents, just the normal search window) and type in various "names" (synonyms) for the item you have in mind... just enter three or four keywords per search, then click on "Images", then scan through what comes up.
Step 2 - If something catches your eye as "looking" like it, or "performs the same or similar function", save that URL in your favorites and continue searching the google results. (we'll come back to the individual link in a minute)
Step 3 - After sifting through three or four pages of search results, enter a new set of keywords and repeat the process.. do this until you have searched every conceivable name you can think of.
Step 4 - Now go back to the first URL and try to identify the "parent" company of the similar product and attempt to locate that company's website... record the "product name" along with any information about the parent company, then move on to the next similar item you found and do the same thing.
Step 5 - Go back to the first item you found, do a Google Patent Search using the retail "product name"... if you find the patent, or application, read the Claims first and see if you can decipher/discern anything that describes YOUR invention... (make notes of the different uses/designs that are claimed)
Step 6 - Now find the "Detailed Description of the Preferred Embodiment's" section of the patent and study it carefully to see if the merits of "your" invention is mentioned or eluded to anywhere. If it is mentioned, unless you can come up with a novel and non obvious improvement to the concept, the search ends. If it is NOT mentioned, go back to the front page of the patent and find the "Citations" section; look up each one of the cited patents and repeat the "Claims/Specification" search, making notes of any variations of the original item you find.
Step 7 - Repeat step's 5 & 6 with each similar product that you found during your keyword search.
Step 8 - Now your notebook should have (1) a list of similar products, (2) companies associated with the similar products, (3) and any variations of the product mentioned in the IP documents.
Step 9 - Now, google retail chains that you think might carry items that meet the same needs as your invention... look through what they have for anything similar................. also, physically visit retailers and look for items that meet the same kind of need as your invention (take notes as you go), then when you get back home, search for the IP on those particular items, including step's 5 & 6... taking notes as you go.
Step 10 - NOW, with all your notes in hand, you have a perfectly illustrated map on how you should proceed...... it is also at his point you should take a serious, non-objective look at your concept and ask yourself how it measures up to the items you have discovered? Does it solve a problem that no other product solves? Does your solution offer greater "real" benefits than other similar products? Ask yourself and REALISTICALLY conclude if your concept is "Better Than" other related products? If there is no mention of your invention/improvement anywhere in any patent documentation, sales papers, web sites, or retail shelves, then you must realistically ask yourself if "your" invention/improvement would be "UNEXPECTED" to anyone familiar with the similar products... in other words, would they greet it with a "Wow, why didn't I think of that?" (remember, you may have something that can be patented, but that doesn't mean the niche population will flock to yours enough to justify some company investing in it) You have ALL the pieces to the puzzle in front of you... try to determine what areas need improvement or an "easier/more-efficient way"... find a HOLE in the technology that hasn't been filled. (if you're "in-love" with your invention, now's a good time to slap yourself back into reality)
Step 11 - Many times, I will buy a couple of the competing products and use them at home to determine exactly how "user friendly" they are, then zero-in on my findings.
Step 12 - In your submission, or presentation, list the most relevant pieces of prior art/competing-products, and detail exactly how & why YOUR invention is superior..... (try your best to make the reasons yours is better something that strikes a chord with the reader, causing them to ENVISION/IMAGINE themselves using it)
I know this sounds like a LOT, but after you do it a few times, you start flowing through it and can begin formulating what is "missing" (what needs to be invented) during the actual search process. Sometimes you come up with NEW inventions along the way. It gets to be fun; almost like a scavenger hunt, where you seek out missing puzzle pieces and hope you can collect enough to SEE a picture no one has ever looked at before. <:-)
REMEMBER: "color" and "size" and "material it's made of" is NOT considered patentable improvements.
REMEMBER: Just because something is patentable does not mean it will be marketable... and just because something is marketable does not mean it's patentable.
REMEMBER: Just because there are 9 million people in the USA that would benefit from your invention, doesn't mean they will ALL abandon what they are currently using to purchase yours.
The main reason for this thread is that I am tired of loosing "friends" who ask me to research their concept, and the results were not what they wanted to hear.