Main Article: Patent
Main Article: Intellectual Property
Novelty is a requirement for any newly granted patent. An invention is not new, and therefore cannot be granted patent protection, if it was known to the public before the patent application is filed. The purpose of the novelty requirement is to prevent prior art (i.e. information that has already been made available to the public) from being protected by patent rights.
Inventors and investors alike are strongly encouraged to do a full patent search to see if a patent has already been filed or granted prior to investing time and resources in formally doing a patent application.
Patents can most easily be searched through either the USPTO's database or Google Patents.
USPTO Patent Full-text and Image Database
The USPTO patent database houses the complete text for patents issued from 1976 to present day. It also houses PDF images for all patents from 1790 to present day.
You can access the USPTO patent database here.
Google Patents is a Google hosted search engine designed to index granted patents and patent applications from the USPTO, European Patent Office (EPO), and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). All patents and patent applications are public domain material, therefore Google can legally host and index them.
USPTO patent records date back to 1790. EPO and WIPO records date back to 1978. The database houses a total of 8 million patents.
You can access Google Patents here.