A proper patent search can uncover existing IP which can become a roadblock to your progress. Depending on the type of invention and the amount of claimed material, your invention could be at risk of being developed “with blinders on” which could prove to be very costly and time consuming.
There are several types of patent searches, each one has a different purpose and we can help you select the right one for your scenario. Here are a few patent search types that are applicable to the product development process. There are others not listed here to avoid creating confusion.
Patentability Search: This type of search is normally performed after we have determined that the invention covers patentable subject matter and has utility. The search focuses on finding prior art references that may be relevant to the invention’s novelty and non-obviousness. The form these prior art references could come in comprise a wide array of materials, including but not limited to issued patents, published patent applications, journals and other non-patent literature, such as shopping databases, newspaper articles, etc., and can have been made public at any point prior to the invention’s creation.
Clearance Search: Also known as a Freedom to Operate (FTO) Search, Right to Use Search, or Infringement Search, it concentrates on finding enforceable patents that might act as roadblocks to commercialization of your invention. Note that for a patent to remain enforceable, it must have all its maintenance fees paid at the proper intervals. Problematic patents can be addressed in several ways, including the formulation of sound and sufficient non-infringing “workarounds”, obtaining a license from the patent owner or consulting with a seasoned patent attorney regarding the potential infringement and suggested courses of action.
Validity Search: This search is like a patentability search due to part of its scope being to assess novelty and non-obviousness. However, the assessment is made on the patent instead of the invention. This type of search is initiated in one of two cases. In the first scenario, a patent owner would desire to assess the strength of his patent in preparation for enforcement of the same. In the second scenario, an accused infringer would be looking to ascertain the validity of an asserted patent. Other names for validity searches are “invalidity” search and “enforcement readiness” search.
Selecting a patent search can be a daunting task, as each search will focus on a different aspect of the invention and the results can vary wildly depending on the focus. Let us review your invention and product requirements prior to starting a patent search. We can help you define project and product goals which could play an important role in IP acquisition.