A patent search can help determine if your invention will infringe on the rights of an existing patent. A patent search can further help gauge your invention's uniqueness and usefulness and allow adjustments to focus your invention's embodiments to help overcome existing art.
Different types of patent searches include Patentability, Invalidity, State of the Art, and Freedom to Operate Searches.
A Patentability Search is conducted to identify prior art references relevant to an invention to be filed in a patent application. This search usually involves a search of online databases for relevant prior art that may be cited against the claimed elements of the invention. A prior art reference may be any publication available to the public, such as patents, printed patent applications, journal articles, and published standards. The one or more prior art references uncovered as a result of the search will be evaluated to determine whether any one or any combination of references fully discloses all the elements of the invention. The results of a patentability search may help determine whether or not to proceed with the expense of preparing and filing a patent application. Alternatively, the search results may help guide the drafting of the patent application by identifying one or more embodiments of the invention not explicitly disclosed in the uncovered prior art.
An Invalidity Search is conducted to identify prior art references that can be used to question the validity, scope, and enforceability of the claims of an issued patent. This search type is often used in litigation as a defense against a patent infringement cause of action against the defendant. As such, this search type is often initiated upon receiving a Cease and Desist Letter or while evaluating the purchase of an issued patent.
State of the Art Search
A State of the Art Search is conducted to evaluate the overall perspective of a particular technical field. This search seeks to identify all relevant references related to technical fields of interest. The results of this search may help align an organization's corporate strategy with its intellectual property strategy. As such, this search type is often initiated when determining a research direction.
Freedom to Operate Search
A Freedom to Operate Search is conducted to help determine whether selling a product or providing a service will infringe upon an enforceable patent belonging to another party. It is essential to understand that a patent does provide its owner a right to perform an invention. Instead, a patent provides the right to stop others from performing an invention defined in the patent's claims. Accordingly, if an invention implements a product that includes a process, machine, or composition of matter defined in the claims of a patent, then the freedom to operate your product in the market becomes questionable. As such, this search type helps minimize the risk that a product introduced into the marketplace infringes an enforceable patent's claims. If it is determined that a product would infringe upon a patent, an analysis of that patent's claims may allow for modifying the product to design around the claims.