The Road to Making Money is Full of Hazards. Here’s Help
I talk to a lot of companies, inventors, and entrepreneurs, and most have a common goal: Let’s make a lot of money! They usually have a great new idea that they plan on riding to the bank. Sadly, many lack a clear sense of the best route and best options to start making that pile of money. They waste time and funds tripping over hazards that the right kind of research could have revealed much earlier.
Focused Patent Research is an efficient, budget-friendly approach to identifying opportunities and roadblocks so that you can plan your route to success. Patent Research will provide data that is beneficial in making early decisions at a cost that is much less than developing a new product or service only to discover limiting factors that lead you back to the starting line.
Here is my countdown of the top five patent search fails that can trip you up on the way to the bank.
Basing business decisions on free information or untrained searchers
Free patent search websites are available and often mimic simple internet searches by allowing you to type in a few keywords and then letting the computing wizards behind the scenes do their work.
The two best-known are the U.S. Patent and Trade Office and Google Patents. This approach is perfectly fine if you are exploring and learning but severely lacking if you are making business or investment decisions.
A close analogy is when a rookie player walks out on a golf course with a set of free clubs; the player’s basic needs are satisfied, but the result is unlikely to win any tournament money.
When the intent is to advance your idea forward into a patent, the cost of your investment to enter the process by filing a utility patent application is usually above $10,000. The patent examiner will review your patent application and then do his or her skilled search. The result will be one or more office actions causing your costs to go higher.
Starting with a well-done, professional-grade search allows you and your attorney to shape your idea into a thoughtful application that moves more quickly through the patenting process — saving you both time and money.
In short, knowing your limitations as a novice searcher using a free engine is essential as you consider your routes to making money, even if it is “only” by filing a patent application.
Not knowing how to choose a skilled researcher
One prospect I had a few months ago received a bid from another searcher for $40 and could not understand why I would charge him more. That was an immediate red flag for me as I know that no reasonably skilled searcher would provide decent results for under $300. Here are a few questions for your interview to help you separate the rookies from the pros:
• Do you do your own searches?
• How many years have you been a searcher?
• What percentage of your business is doing patent searches?
• What search engine(s) do you use?
• What methods do you use to do your searching?
• What criteria do you use to know when you finish?
Do not blindly assume that your patent attorney or agent is an expert searcher who uses expert tools. I’ve seen the evidence of the opposite as I’m frequently taking over projects where other searcher’s results fail to meet expectations.
Not using the results to your maximum advantage
The results of patent research are unsurprising, a bunch of patents! The surprise is that these documents contain a lot more than legal mumbo-jumbo. A lot more.
Here are a few examples of what you can learn from reliable patent searches:
• New ideas to further improve or expand your technology and patent application.
• Additional market applications you may not have considered.
• The future direction of your market.
• Court litigation in your space.
• A rough idea of the amount of competition you will be facing, based on the number of highly relevant patents.
• Unexpected licensees, buyers, and competitors in your idea.
• A glimpse into your Freedom to Operate to help you avoid getting sued for patent infringement.
Not recognizing inferior results
The number of global patent applications and issued patents is nearing five million annually.  That’s almost one a second, every day, of every year!
In my work, it is no surprise that almost every idea has some highly related art. So related that it often makes my client reassess their approach to the patent application, marketplace, and monetization scheme.
Here are a few guidelines to help you recognize when you are not getting the results you paid for (if you paid more than $40, that is):
• Your results contain only U.S. data. Woefully incomplete because 81 percent of patent applications are filed outside the U.S. 
• The results are only somewhat related to your idea. You should find at least one publication in your results that looks like your future patent application.
• There are only five or so results, with a lot of writeup about each one. The searcher spent more time on the analysis of bad data rather than trying to find better data.
• You did a patent search, and the results were better than your paid searcher’s results.
If you feel your results are less than perfect, they probably are!
Not doing any research at all
I believe that early patent research will not only pay for itself, but it will also increase your financial returns down the road. Time and again, I have turned up surprising information for clients who are still designing, engineering, or saying they are “going to get a patent.”
Until I came on the scene, many designers and engineers had never considered that my results could also improve their product.
Patent research is rich in detailed information and is closely related to your ideas. Those who know how to dig into and understand the patent world are rewarded as “80 percent of the information found in patents is not found elsewhere.” 
Patent research is part science and part art. My goal is to develop a map and a route to your destination for every project. I don’t want someone else to trip you up along the way!
More Business Research Ideas
Do you ever wonder how large companies prepare for the future? Simply put, they are always thinking about their innovations and how to process them efficiently. Learn more in my article in Texas CEO Magazine, 5 Ways Big Companies Stay Ahead of their Competitors (including you).
 World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), World Intellectual Property Indicators 2017, 2017.
 A. Trippe, Guidelines for Preparing Patent Landscape Reports, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), 2016.
Graphics Credits (Wikimedia):
Is that all? August 2010 (Michael Hiemstra)
Statue tripping, February 2006 (Bianca Bueno)