Have you ever wanted to search for existing or expired design patents not only in your own country, but in the countries where you'd like to sell your designs? A website called DesignView has wrangled together the design patent databases of 45 countries, plus the ARIPO (African Regional Intellectual Property Organization), EUIPO (European Union Intellectual Property Office) and WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization), and lets you search all of them at once with a single search box.
Even better, the service is completely free, and they claim the databases they have access to are updated daily.
Just out of curiosity, I typed in "waffle irons" and got 97 results from a host of countries. I then discovered that the 2003 patent on Philippe Starck's waffle iron design has expired, meaning this is a prime time for me to swoop in and produce a too-close-for-comfort competing product.
Here's a complete list of the countries and organizations covered:
Albania ARIPO Austria Benelux Brazil Bulgaria Canada China Colombia Croatia Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Estonia EUIPO Finland France FYROM Georgia Germany Greece Hungary Iceland Ireland Italy Latvia Lithuania Malta Mexico Morocco Norway Poland Portugal Republic of Korea Romania Russian Federation Serbia Slovakia Slovenia Spain Sweden Tunisia Turkey United Kingdom United States