Avoid a patent headache with a simple search

So you’ve come up with an invention or design that is worth patenting. It may not be as novel as Thomas Edison’s domestic light bulb or motion picture camera, but you still want to legally protect your work.

How do you check that someone else hasn’t already patented a similar idea? What should you do to ensure that you’re not stepping on another inventor’s toes? And how can you keep an eye on competitors and market conditions?

You can search existing patents and industrial design databases to see what has already been protected.

By doing a check of current patents, you can avoid infringement of other people’s intellectual property, discover new innovations in your field and even identify competitors.

The patent guide from the Canadian Intellectual Property Office highlights six key reasons why you should do a preliminary search:

Avoid Infringement:

By searching first, you can avoid future, expensive legal headaches by ensuring you’re not breaching someone else’s patent.

Discover the latest innovations:

Want insight into the latest cutting-edge inventions or designs in your field? Most new inventions are disclosed publicly for the first time when a patent is published, often long before they become new products. You can be the first to know.

Develop new partnerships:

By searching, you can identify which companies are already developing similar technologies in related areas. You could buy or license their rights to improve your own innovations.

Anticipate changes in market condition

Tracking patents can help you predict future market conditions. By staying informed about potential new technologies, you can be prepared to offer new support services or products.

Identify potential competitors

Staying informed about potential competitors can help you avoid unnecessary conflicts with others.

Find potential commercial issues

There may be patents or industrial designs similar to yours that are still not in the marketplace. This could indicate that the invention may not be commercially viable, if existing patent owners did not proceed with commercialization.

The Canadian Intellectual Property Office runs free databases where you can search for existing patents or industrial designs in Canada. You can also search overseas databases.

In our next blog post, we’ll look at how to create a protection strategy for your invention or design.


Mitacs empowers Canadian innovation through effective partnerships that deliver solutions to our most pressing problems. By driving economic growth and productivity, we create meaningful change to improve quality of life for all Canadians.