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More Info on Prior Art
Searching for patents is an important part of prior art, but it's not the only important factor. Even if another individual has made your invention and never got around to patenting it, this can still cause your patent application to be rejected. While you're searching for patents, you may also want to do a search for non-patent literature such as newspapers, trade paper or magazine articles that have been written about your invention.
In addition to searching at the USPTO, you may also find it helpful to do an online search for international patent documents. Keep in mind the fact that just because someone else is not selling your invention doesn't mean that it's not out there somewhere.
Once you've determined that your idea or invention is patentable, you'll have to determine if it's worth the expense to have it patented.