Do-It-Yourself Market Search
There are a couple of very good product search resources on the Internet, and those listed below are absolutely free.
These services typically don't use elaborate Boolean search strategies, like the PTO's website. So you'll just want to limit your search to your main noun (and any relevant synonyms), and one or two distinguishing concepts. For example, with our www.cdsnaps.com example, you might use the following phrases:
cd wall bracket
cd wall clip
compact disk wall bracket
compact disk wall clip
cd vertical holder
Here are the free product search engines that are the easiest to use and cover a wide range in the market:
Google Shopping -- https://www.google.com/shopping
Leave it to Google to compile a huge list of shopping resources, all conveniently collected for you at one place. Enter your key words into this search site to see what competitive products are available.
Amazon -- http://www.amazon.com
Amazon doesn't show you just what they sell (which is just about everything that is for sale), but they include many affiliate sites that also sell various products. If it's for sale on the web, it's likely here.
ThomasNet -- http://www.thomasnet.com
This is the on-line version of the ThomasRegister, an industry guide to products and their manufacturers.
Try your search on a variety of search engines, not just Google. You can search many of the search engines at once using Dogpile or http://www.zoo.com or WebCrawler or individual search engines such as Bing, Yahoo, Alta Vista, LookSmart, Lycos, HotBot, AOL, etc. You should enclose your search strings within quotation marks to force the search engines to return only pages that have that exact phrase. But be sure to try a variety of search strings (as shown above) since not everyone will describe the product in the same way using the same words. Again, this is hit or miss, but if you get a hit it can save you time and money.
If you still don't find anything after a bit of searching, that's a good sign. But that doesn't mean you're home-free. It's time to call in the experts to look under all the rocks to see if there are any relevant patents hiding under them.
There are predators out there wanting to capitalize on your enthusiasm for your own idea, even if your idea doesn't stand a chance in the marketplace. But they won't tell you that... learn more.