Find out more about the purpose, benefits and terminology used in patent searching and finding out more about your competition and potential to protect your idea.
1st Purpose – Ensure your idea does not already exist
It is essential, even if you do not want to patent your idea, to perform a patent search before you spend too much time and money developing your idea to try and find out if your idea already exists.
You may hear the term ‘prior art’ used to describe findings from a patent search. The term prior art constitutes all information that has been made available to the public in any form before a given date that might be relevant to your claims of originality for your idea.
The reason for this is that somebody else might have already protected the idea and could take legal action against you to recover any money you have made selling the idea and damages for infringing their patent.
This is because a granted patent gives the inventor an exclusive right to prevent others from making, using, selling, or distributing the patented invention as a commercial venture without permission. It does not, however, stop the patented invention being made, used or distributed for non-commercial purposes.
An additional complication is that patents are not published until they are granted and it can take up to two and a half years for a patent to be granted. For example, a patent submitted on the 1st of January 2012 may not be found on the internet until 1st of July 2013. You may not find this patent during your search but, as the legal rights date from the submission date, and you may unintentionally infringe the patent. For this reason, it is prudent to periodically repeat your patent search to find any patents that have been published since your last search.
2nd Purpose – Protect the novel features of your idea
As mentioned previously, a granted patent gives the inventor an exclusive right to commercialise the technology described in their patent. This gives you a financial reward for the originality of your idea.
It is therefore necessary to evaluate patents describing similar technology to your idea and commercially available technology that has similar features to your idea to determine what is unique about your idea and what is the commercial value of these unique features.
If you are applying to the IPI Club or another funding body, they will normally require due diligence to be done which will include a patent search. This will uncover any patents or commercially available products that are similar to your idea. Please download the Initial Evaluation Report as this will collate all the information gathered during your initial evaluation including the patentability search, market research and opinions.
Even if the development and patenting costs for your ideas are covered by other means, a patent examiner will be appointed to evaluate your patent before it is granted to assess the novelty and any project partners will want to know the patent status and market feedback for your invention.
Therefore, you must be unbiased when assessing both the novelty and commercial value of your idea, as you may spend significant time and tens of thousands of pounds on a lost cause.
Another consideration is that patents only cover the novelty of the invention and do not consider the commercial value. Therefore, you will more than likely be granted a patent for an inflatable dart board but what you have to consider is who will buy it?
Smart Idea Store
August 24, 2012