If you intend on bringing innovations to the marketplace it is essential to obtain a patent which grants you the exclusive right to use, sell or otherwise exploit the particular invention and to bar others from doing so. Before submitting a patent application, however, it is often crucial to conduct a patent search.
Patent Search: 101
Although a patent search is not required by law, it does provide you with a number of benefits. First, a patent search can determine whether any prior art may prevent the approval of your patent application. A patent search can also help you avoid infringing on another’s patent and serve as a guideline in drafting your patent application.
Because filing for an obtaining a patent can be expensive, conducting a prior art search before you submit your application can save money. The prior art includes previous patents, publications, trade journal articles, and patent sales. The prior art includes any other body of knowledge related to the invention that accumulates prior to the filing date of the invention.
Finally, a comprehensive search strategy also means reviewing existing patents and pending applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), as well as any relevant information in the public domain.
The Patent Classification System
Conducting a patent search involves reviewing databases and specialized libraries to determine if there are identical, similar, or partially similar inventions to your invention. Therefore, it is helpful to understand the patent classification system. In short, patents are contained in databases that are organized by class and subclass of inventions.
It is worth noting that the US transitioned into a common classification system with European Patent Office for utility patents, the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC), in 2015. The CPC system is designed to create a common system for granting patents in the U.S. and Europe. Plant and design patents are not covered in the CPC system, however, and continue to be published with US Patent Classification System codes.
In any event, complete patent documents and published applications can be retrieved from the relevant databases. In addition to searching the databases, reviewing sales of patented inventions, and any accumulated body of knowledge, it is also important to search non-patent literature (e.g., magazines and trade paper articles).
Contact an Experienced Intellectual Property Attorney
Once the application is submitted to the USPTO, an examiner will also conduct a patent search as part of the examination process. This entails a review of all public disclosures (e.g. prior art) to confirm that your invention is novel, useful, and nonobvious. This makes your patent search a critical tool in the event the examiner’s search reveals a potential problem. In any event, conducting a well-conceived patent search requires the skills of experienced patent attorneys. Contact us today to discuss the patentability of your invention.
Posted in: Patents