This post should be very useful if you decided to perform prior art search by yourself. This is recommended as the very first step of idea protection. Patent search provides several significant benefits, i.e. reduces risk related to patenting, provides good knowledge on technical development, gives more ideas of product functionality, collects information needed for drafting of patent specification.
Introduction to Prior Art Search
For prior art search different recommendations are provided by the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) and EPO (European Patent Office). USPTO recommends using their database or a paid databases such as Delphion.
In our experience, for daily activities it is best to use two patent databases, which are free of charge and probably most comprehensive and timely updated.We are using EPO and WIPO databases as they provide convenient search tools and their you can find most information needed in order to take decisions in technology or product development. However, USPTO database is also very helpful when more information about US patents is needed, e.g. expiry date, priority, actions taken by the patent office, etc.
In principle patent search is not very complex if you are familiar with search syntax and you know, how to read and understand patents. It is a keyword game seeking to find the most relevant patents for your search. Sometimes the search engine gives you thousands of patents as a result, which is impossible to go through. Then special search techniques come to help.
About the databases
WIPO database is maintained by the World Intellectual Property Organization, which also deals with PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) patent applications also known as international patent applications. The search is performed using regular query syntax.
A unique point of WIPO patent search is that it provides useful summaries: how many patents in the field are owned by individual companies. This is very valuable information for example for venture capitalists willing to establish itself into one or another technology driven markets. Companies which are strong in some certain field in terms of number of patents should be considered potentially the most valuable ones to acquire.
EPO database for us is the most valuable and the most comprehensive patent database. It is maintained by the European Patent Office. It provides most information on patent history (office actions, ISR - international search reports, withdrawals, validation in different European Countries, etc.). Another great thing about this database is that it recognises patent numbers most accurately, so you can find the desired patent easily either by entering a part of patent number or patent application number.
Query syntax is also similar to that of the WIPO and other databases. It is advisable to read the quick help tutorial.
English is the key language in patent world and it seems it will strengthen its positions in the future. Today virtually any published patent has its abstract translated into English. However, sometimes it is more safe to try several keywords in other languages, namely - German, French. Sometimes Korean and Chinese patents are so poorly translated, this should be kept in mind when performing patent searches.
Reasonable amount of results
Usually it is not worth studying patent abstracts when there is more than a 100 search results. Again it depend on the field, but if you are searching for something really specific, a good search query should return around 20-50 results. If there is now way how you could limit the search scope using keywords, try adding a classification filter, though big mistakes can be made by misjudging about classification.
A rule of a thumb
In case you succeeded finding a relevant patent, which has a recent publication date, always look at the ISR (international search results). There you will find other related patents, which are older and might have great influence on the strength and validity of the patent in question. Also it will give you way better understanding on the overall patent situation.
Keep in mind
We provide patent search and examination services. We will provide you with recommendations, how to proceed with technological or product development and allow you to understand risks.
- Patent searches
- Examination of state-of-art patents
- Validity analysis
- Patent drafting
- Application filing