The next three blog posts comprise a “reality check” that every new inventor should consider.

The reality is that your new invention idea:

  1. May not really be new
  2. May not be patentable
  3. May not be commercially valuable

For this post, let's focus on item 1 – your new invention may not really be “new.”

Your New Product May not be New

Inventors are creative and most of us have new ideas almost every day. Of course, the idea is “new” to us simply because we have not thought of it before. “There is nothing out there like my product” – is a common refrain.

The reality is that not only is there something out there that is similar to your product, there may be many things like your product. Your best hope is that there is not something that is exactly the same as your product.

Your first assignment as an inventor with a new product idea is to don your best Sherlock Holmes hat and cape, grab your magnifying glass and conduct a detailed investigation looking for your product “out there.”

Of course, your hope is you do not find your product out there. But, if you do, you should celebrate. Why? Your thorough investigation has just saved you from wasting thousands of dollars pursuing a product that is not going to work.

I suggest that you first do a high-level patent search on looking to see if there is something within the over 9 million issued US patents that is eerily similar to your product. Here is a simple search I did on three different terms looking only at titles of patents issued since 1976:

  • “Cat toy” – initially 47 patents
  • “Clothes hanger” – 360 patents
  • “Pacifier” – 484 patents
  • “Windshield wiper” – 1,071 patents

Just because there are 47 patents with “cat toy” in the title line doesn't mean all or any of them are similar to yours, but some might be. Clearly based on the above, cat toy patents are somewhat uncommon whereas windshield wiper patents are very plentiful. Your next step would be a more detailed examination of the found patents. Many of them would drop out as being either very different from your product or for other reasons.

Your next step should be to do a marketing search of websites, retailers, and catalogs. Many products that sell on the marketplace are not patented for a variety of reasons.

Do a search on several different descriptive phrases on websites including:

  • – over 700 online stores and catalogs
  • – countless products and vendors worldwide

While the above is not an exhaustive list, one or more of the above websites may well have a product for sale that is quite similar to yours.

Finally, do a little work as a gumshoe visiting a variety of bricks and morter retailers including Bed, Bath, and Beyond, Macy's, JC Penney, Kmart, Target, and Walmart to name a few. You may find your product already selling in one of these stores.

Once you have taken all of the above steps in your investigation, you may then feel a bit more confident there may not be anything exactly like your product out there.

Your next Sherlock Holmes investigation whether or not your product is patentable.

Stay Tuned for Your New Invention May Not be Patentable.