A basic requirement to obtain a patent on an invention is that it is new and non-obvious. These requirements involve looking at the prior art. Prior art is broadly described as everything that exists and is publicly available as of the date the patent application is filed.
Prior art may consist of documents, such as published patents or applications, research papers, journal articles, or conference presentations. However, documentary prior art does not have to be formal. An Internet posing or YouTube video could constitute prior art. Prior art also captures products offered for sale to the public.
Understanding what the prior art is helps evaluate whether your invention is likely to receive patent protection. This review is accomplished through a prior art search. You can also contact a patent professional who can perform a detailed search of the prior art and give you an opinion on patentability prior to investing the time and effort into pursuing patent protection.