Whether you want to patent your invention or just put it on the market, a patent search is a very useful tool.
In order for an invention to be patentable, the invention must be both "novel" and "nonobvious". For purposes of a patentability search, an invention is deemed to be novel when it has not been identically disclosed in any prior patent or publication. Once it is determined that an invention is novel, the differences between the invention and those previously developed must be found not to be obvious to a person having ordinary skill in the art.
The results of a patentability search are used prior to filing an application to assess the likelihood of the patentability of the invention. The results are also used assess whether broad protection could be sought or protection would be limited. This means that, before you spend money having a patent attorney prepare and file a patent application, you can find out if it is reasonable to pursue a patent.
Another advantage of a patent search is that it gives you a better understanding of what has been done before. This helps your patent attorney prepare a more complete application and describe your invention in ways that will distinguish it from prior patented products.
Still, there is no guarantee that a patent will be granted regardless of the results of a search.
A patentability search should not be confused with an infringement analysis. Additionally, it is possible that an invention that is patentable will infringe an existing patent even if a new patent is issued. In that instance, it would be necessary to obtain a license from the other patent owner in order to practice the invention. Therefore, if potential infringement is a concern, an infringement analysis must be conducted separately.