I have a concept for a software product that I want to pursue. I've personally done an extensive Internet prior art search as well as searches for US and international patents searches and I found some patents that are strikingly similar to my concept. It is now to the point where I'm unsure whether my product is novel enough to be granted a patent.
The next steps I want to take are to file a provisional patent so that I can slap "Patent Pending" on the documentation I show my target market when I conduct market validation interviews to probe the commercial potential of the product.
I'm now considering paying an attorney to do a patent search to determine the patentability of the concept before I put much more effort into this. On the other end, I'm not sure if it makes sense to pay to have a patent search done now, if I can just file a provisional patent for the time being for roughly a hundred bucks, especially since there are other ways to create barriers for entry for competition (ie being 1st to market, etc). Besides, truth of the matter is that at the end of the year of the provisional patent's protection, when I pursue an official patent, that attorney will conduct a prior art/patent search at that time, anyways.
What I want to know is whether I should bypass paying a professional to find out the patentability of the product right now, and just file the provisional so that I can begin on market validation. I figure the attorney that handles the official patent in a year would end up doing a patent search anyways.
On the other hand, I feel a bit uncomfortable going through months of work not being certain on the barriers of entry we will have since we won't know if the product qualifies for IP Protection. Thanks for your help.