Prior to having a professional patent subject matter search conducted we generally encourage our clients to conduct their own patent search as this may avoid the need for and expense of having a professional patent search conducted. However, please be aware that if you do conduct your own search and your search does not identify relevant art you should still consider having a professional search conducted. We commonly identify relevant art in the situation where our client has already conducted their own patent search which did not find anything relevant. This is because a professional patent search is more targeted and efficient by combining the searchers knowledge and experience with the benefits of powerful subscription patent databases.
There are many freely available resources on the Internet where you can conduct your own patent search including the following:
Try to use combinations of distinctive concepts and/or keywords that relate to different key aspects of the development to limit the number of search results to a manageable number.
Use truncation where possible
Consider using patent classifications (Patent classifications are a very powerful search tool that novice searchers can use to have a fish around but be aware that the proper use of patent classifications requires a comprehensive knowledge of the complex technical classifications systems and that many of the freely available databases also have limited functionality in relation to patent classifications).
Be aware of the limitations of the databases you are using (e.g. what country or countries are covered, what type of rights are covered, are there known holes in the coverage of the database, what search syntax is required etc.)