So you have an idea, an invention. You think it might make you a millionaire. Patent searching can be done quite simply, and frankly it is something we cannot help but recommend that you undertake.
If you want to do it yourself, visit espacenet, the European database of patent filings, i.e. patent applications and granted patents. Even if someone has filed a half-hearted home-made application on the other side of the world, and then ran out of money, that could still stop you getting patent protection.
The point of an effective search is that it should enable you to discover whether your invention is new or not. The point of a professional search is to find out what bits of your invention are new, and enable us to advise you on whether the novelty you have in your invention is enough to make it worth your while to file a patent application.
We cross-search the international databases through multiple strategies to identify similar filings that reflect or provide a framework to your invention. Through this you should be able to understand what is new with your invention and whether this is enough or can be expanded into enough to make a good strong patent. It is then up to you unfortunately to take that strong patent and turn it into a strong commercial opportunity.
Remember a patent can give you a 20 year monopoly over your invention. Knowing what that invention is, is a question that will make a big difference to answer.