Some ideas are very specific and i am wondering if just the search itself for an idea (i.e. internet search engine or Google Patent Search) would potentially disclose to others the idea? Would searching the internet for "x that does y" would potentially be flagged or tracked by someone(?) or some entity?

For example searching for "ink that disappears." Could that search be picked up or trended by any software through keyword monitoring or other technology?

I may not be asking the question correctly but my concern is about disclosing an idea while attempting to research how novel it is (prior to applying for patent).

Thank you.

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    Actually, one paragraph in the European Patent Office's Guidelines for Examination sternly warns Examiners against accidentally disclosing the contents of unpublished patent applications when searching for prior art. So your concern is definitely valid!
    – Extraneous
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 20:18
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    @AlexandreFlak Very valuable information. I will make the point that one shouldn't have to disclose proprietary IP to search. (i.e. "ink that disappears" is an idea, not a method, and abstract concepts without concrete technical implementation are not going to pass muster in the US post-Alice. This new status is partly due to patent trolling of abstract concepts that do not constitute actual inventions.)
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 21:47
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    @AlexandreFlak I think the text you link to would be extremely useful as a formal answer. (Gives a different perspective than the current answer.)
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 21:49

2 Answers 2


Well, google for example does track your search history and at least use abstract statistics. I don't know how much detailled analysis they do (automatically), it's probably hard to find out.

I'd say it's not easy to answer your question, but I know at least one patent attorney who is convinced that what you describe can actually happen.

From a patent law point of view this is a very difficult question, nobody may patent an idea stolen from you, but on the other hand you are kinda disclosing it on your own to the search engines etc., so worst case might be that you couldn't even sue them (= win the lawsuit).

You can, however, google for anonymous browsers (Tor, etc.), search for different parts of the invention with different engines and browsers (and maybe PCs), delete cookies, etc. I'm pretty certain that should be enough to protect you from anything that gathers big data.

  • This is an interesting take, particularly per your patent attorney friend. My feeling is that a google search does not constitute a public disclosure.
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 21:41
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    @DukeZhou Disclosure not. But they might know about it in a big data Sense
    – user18033
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 22:44
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    Agreed! I wanted to make the point about disclosure per the legal ramifications. (i.e. if you publicly disclose before filing at least a provisional, you're screwed, at least since the change from "first to invent" to "first to file".)
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 22:51
  • @DukeZhou it would be an interesting case if a bored google employee analyzed your searches and published your invention. theoretical but interesting
    – user18033
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 23:50
  • Wouldn't the usual advice to take the essence of your innovation (after testing it privately) and note it down in sufficient detail to show a good understanding of the matters involved, prior art, current practice, etc and register-mail it to yourself or your attorney and stash it in a safe be enough protection against claims made after your web searches ?
    – Trunk
    Commented Feb 21, 2021 at 13:04

You could try using as search engine that (claims to) respect your privacy more. Duck Duck Go supposedly will not store your search history (or less of it for a shorter time? I forget). It might be you need to set that option, but either way it might significantly reduce your chance that someone will uncover your patent search.

  • That protects the identity of who did the searching, not necessarily the search string itself.
    – George White
    Commented Feb 15, 2021 at 20:11

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