The disadvantage to searching intellectual property online, patents in particular, is that the available online databases do not encompass the array and extent of tools needed to conduct a comprehensive search.7 Essentially, you can search patents on the web, but you cannot do a true patent search. A complete patentability search must include not only U.S. patents, but foreign patents and all relevant non-patent literature also (all resources together are referred to as ‘‘prior art’’ for an invention).8 These additional resources can be researched at the Patent Office Library in Washington D.C., and, on a more limited basis, at a local PTDL. The fact that an online search of your invention did not produce any relevant patents, therefore, does not mean that your invention is patentable.9
Selby, Jennifer. “A Guide to Intellectual Property Legal Research Online,” Mich. B. J. 83, no. 8 (2004): 52-54.