An invention has to be novel in order to quality for a patent. If your invention already exists, it is pointless applying for a patent, so you will need to check in advance whether your idea is indeed novel.
There are both obvious and less obvious ways to find out whether your invention is actually novel. One very worthwhile approach is to carry out a general preliminary examination, for instance. If you discover that your idea already exists as a patented invention, this does not automatically mean there is no point you pursuing the matter. There will probably still be some possibilities for you to continue developing your idea into an improved version of the invention that has already been patented. I can also help you find out what kind of rights you will need to take into account. Below are my top 3 tips for checking the novelty of your invention.
1. Conduct an Internet search
Although this is, of course, quite an obvious thing do to, I nevertheless want to include it as a tip because I frequently come across inventors who feel that the things they find on the Internet are inferior to their valuable invention. It is important to note that it is not the quality of your invention that is key, in the sense of it being sound or sustainable, but rather whether or not something already exists. When conducting a search, you should not just enter the key words of your invention in English, but also in French and German.
2. Explore the market
Beside the Internet there are numerous other ways to monitor what competitors are developing and offering. You can, for example, visit exhibitions and seminars. Let it become second nature for employees who are in regular contact with customers to explore what the market has to offer and what customers want and need. Your employees are not just ambassadors of your company, but also your eyes and ears in the field.
3. Search patent databases
In addition to standard search engines such as Google and Bing, there are specialised patent search engines such as Google Patents and Espacenet where you can find millions of patent publications from over eighty countries, and often things that you cannot find using standard search engines.
Novel, because it is not on the market?
An industrial designer came to see me with her invention some time ago. It was a bucket for whitewash with an integrated tray for the paint roller. It was really handy. "And it is novel, because I have not been able to find it anywhere", she said. A check on Espacenet told me, however, that the general idea behind her invention had already been patented in the United States. It had just never been brought into the market. The story nevertheless had a good ending for the designer. When she saw the drawings of the invention on Espacenet she very resolutely commented, "That one drips". By showing how her invention was better, and therefore novel, we were still able to obtain a patent. Her invention is now on sale in all big DIY stores.