The Benefits of Patent Searches
Category Patent Searching
Preliminary patent searching and prior art searching are an important part of the commercialization process. Even though you may have never seen an invention like yours in the marketplace, there is a chance that someone owns a patent on your idea.

Remember, less than 2% percent of all patents are ever commercialized and fewer than this ever make enough money to pay for the initial expenses. Inventors come to us all the time thinking their invention is unique, only to be totally surprised to learn that their brainstorm was already patented, or is offered in some obscure place in the market. This being the case, why would you want to pursue an invention only to find out that someone already owns the patent rights?  

Although a hard concept to initially understand, you can receive a patent on your invention from the patent office, and your patent may still infringe the patent(s) owned by another person. The US Patent Office can and does issue patents that infringe other patent(s) because your new and novel improvement may incorporate all the aspects of an existing or pending patent. However, as long as you’ve added new, novel and non-obvious subject matter, you may still be able to receive a patent in your name.

There is additional value to patent searches even when your invention is novel and patentable. A patent search will reveal a tremendous amount of knowledge about other developments in your field of interest. Knowing about other technologies and products can help you get ideas about ways to improve yours. It also helps you understand your limitations. There may be other patents covering similar concepts, but not exactly like yours. Knowing these other variations can help you refine your patent application so that it doesn’t include all the aspects of others’ patents.

Patents are always listed under the names of the people who conceived the invention. When such an inventor works for a corporation, it’s common for that corporation to automatically own the patent rights based on prior agreements between the company and the individual. In this case, the company will be listed as the assignee of the invention. This assignee listing is found directly under the names of the individuals on the patent.

When your patent search reveals other patents in your field, it will also reveal the names of corporations that have obtained patents in this field. This information can be useful since these companies may very well have an interest in your invention. You can also have an “assignee search” performed, just like a patent search is performed. This reveals companies that have patents assigned to them in your field of interest.

Once you have identified inventors in your area of interest, reach out to them. Even though these inventors may not have inventions exactly like yours, if their inventions are in the same area of the market, these inventors may have prior experiences with the introduction of new products in that market. You can simply call these inventors and ask them how their invention has progressed in the marketplace. I've done this on numerous occasions and have found that inventors are always quick to share their trials and tribulations. They can tell you about complications in the marketplace that you may not have considered that may very well affect your invention. You can also learn from these inventors about companies that can assist you, or even purchase or license your invention.

Adapted from, The Inventor’s Bible: How to Market and License Your Brilliant Ideas, Copyright 2001, 2004, Ten Speed Press, a Crown Publishing imprint of Random House, All Rights Reserved.
Category Patent Searching
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