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A preliminary patent search consists of a series of steps to determine whether your invention is original and does not infringe on an existing patent. San Diego Public Library has the basic tools to start a patent search. Its Patent, Trademark & Copyright Collection has more information about patents and patent searching. The library staff can provide instruction in the use of these basic tools but is prohibited from doing patent searches, offering opinions on the effectiveness of the patent search, or giving legal advice of any kind.

A search of United States patents is not a complete patentability search. Other sources consulted in an exhaustive search can include foreign patents and published patent applications, journal literature, product literature, trade publications, product catalogs, and other materials.