The do-it-yourself patent search is a useful alternative to professional patent analysis particularly in the context of publicly funded projects where funds for IP activities may be limited. As a case study, we analysed patents related to the engineering of terpenoid indole alkaloid (TIA) metabolism in plants. We developed a focused search strategy to remove redundancy and reduce the workload without missing important and relevant patents. This resulted in the identification of approximately 50 key patents associated with TIA metabolic engineering in plants, which could form the basis of a more detailed freedom-to-operate analysis. The structural elements of this search strategy could easily be transferred to other contexts, making it a useful generic model for publicly funded research projects.