By Neil Thompson, Patent Agent & Writer
You have an invention idea and you apply for a patent application. But what if someone has already patented that idea? All your hard work has been in vain. You wouldn’t have had this problem if you had done a prior art search before filing the application, though.
A prior art search is a search for all patent applications and patents that are related to your invention idea. There are companies whose sole job is to do prior art searches. They have access to databases from around the world and can provide you with a list of patent applications and patents related to your invention. A patent practitioner can take that list and look through all the applications and patents and see what they claim. If he thinks that your invention can claim something that’s different from what’s claimed in the list, then your invention may be patentable.
There are some patent practitioners who do their own prior art searches. They most likely don’t have access to all the databases and tools prior art search companies have access to, though. Going through a company that routinely does prior art searches will likely give you a more comprehensive list. The bigger the list is, the less surprised you’ll be by the patent examiner looking over your application. The examiner will do his own prior art search and come up with his own list. You want your list to match his list as much as possible. By having access to more databases than a patent practitioner, a prior art search company is your best bet of your list matching up with the examiner’s list. You’ll be more prepared if the examiner issues a rejection of your application based on a document on his list.
If your application is likely to face rejection, wouldn’t you like to know that beforehand? Doing a prior art search before filing an application can save you a lot of money in patent practitioner fees, filing fees, and other fees. A typical prior art search can cost around $500, but don’t skimp on this step. $500 early on trumps thousands of dollars of fees later on.
This article was previously published at http://www.neilithompson.com/. Thank you to Neil Thompson, patent agent & writer, for sharing with our SDEE community.