It’s important to the patent process that one does a prior art search to make sure that no one else has patented the same invention or design. A design or invention may serve a purpose and not be obvious, but one can’t patent what has already been discovered and disclosed because it’s not unique or new. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) won’t do this for you, though they will deny a patent application if your design or invention is too much like another.
What is “prior art?”
Prior art is any invention (or part thereof) that was disclosed or known to be created prior to a patent application being new submitted. For example, prior art can be a patent, a product, or evidence that a product exists or has existed, such as a news article about a design or invention existing somewhere. Prior art is valid only if someone in the field in which that design or invention would be used could easily construct it or use it, or understand what it’s for.
How to conduct a prior art search?
Prior art searches used to mean long, exhausting days in a library. Technological advancement has of course helped with this as we can now conduct many of these searches electronically. First, a search for patents can be done on the USPTO’s website. There are also several databases online that include journals, trade magazines, textbooks, and more. However, accessing many of these databases may be costly, and sifting through results can take quite a long time. Many inventors choose to pay another company to do this search for them or opt to seek help from an attorney that practices in patent law.
Where should an inventor start?
For a Utility (Non-Provisional or Provisional) patent application, we generally suggest starting off with a Point of Novelty (PON) search, analysis, and report. This search and report assists the inventor to determine what, if anything, may be patentable, and whether the invention has already been disclosed in prior art. The PON helps identify what is novel about the invention and whether this point of novelty is worth the investment of seeking a patent. A PON search and report also assists in drafting the application and we believe it ultimately results in a much stronger more valuable patent application that will usually reduce the overall cost of obtaining the patent.
What if you find something similar to your design or invention?
It’s not unusual to find prior art similar to one’s own work, but this doesn’t mean that one’s work can’t be patented. An acceptable invention can simply be an improvement upon a prior invention. Changes to the design or process or including much more detail than is included in the prior art’s patent may help distinguish one invention from another which has been previously disclosed or patented.
A Patent Attorney Can Help.
A patent attorney can help you every step of the way through the patent process, including by conducting a prior art search on your behalf. Our patent attorneys can help make this process as speedy and cost-effective as possible. If you would like to learn more about conducting a prior art search, contact our office at 888-666-0062 to schedule a consultation.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.
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