Patent Searching for Inventors
What is a patent? A patent is a document that discloses the implementation details of an invention to the public so that they can make and use the invention once the patent expires. Before the patent expires, the inventor gains exclusive control of the invention. A patent also has a property right granted to an inventor, and this right allows the inventor to exclude others from making, using or selling the invention. The time for the exclusive use is for 20 years from the date of filing the application or until the annual maintenance fees are not paid.
An invention must meet conditions to be allowable, such as novelty and non-obviousness. Novelty indicates that the invention is a new idea (not published to the world). The concept is not patentable if the concept (invention) is described in a publication anywhere in the world (in the US, the rule is more than one year prior to the application for a US patent). Non-obviousness indicates that the invention is not an obvious extension of prior art (such as a combination of prior art documents). The subject matter sought to be patented must be sufficiently different from what has been used or described before that it may be said to be not obvious to a person having ordinary skill in the area of technology related to the invention. For example, the substitution of one material for another, or changes in size, are ordinarily not patentable (unless a surprising result is obtained that is unexpected).
It is important for inventors to be able to describe how their inventions differ from the existing state of the art. The reason for this is that the patent office will give approval for patent applications that show how the concept is differ from the existing state of the art.
Patent Assessment Reports
The rejection rate of patent applications at the USPTO is about 50%. To avoid spending large sums of money on patent applications that may get rejected, it is recommended to conduct a prior art search and have a patentability assessment prepared. By having an assessment report, the failure rate may be significantly reduced down to about 1%.
One option is for the inventor to do their own search to determine if their concept is novel (new or not previously published). One such place to conduct a search is google patents. Once the inventor is satisfied that their concept is a novel concept, they should have a formal assessment prepared to confirm their findings before preparing the patent application (in the interest of reducing the risk of rejection by the patent office).
Of course, if the inventor determines that their proposed concept is not novel (the inventor finds something that is too close on the concept), the inventor can save time and money and can move on to another concept or further refine their present concept.
A key concept to keep in mind is this when search for prior art (published documents): what problem is the concept solving that the publication documents (also called, prior art) fails to resolve? If the answer to this question indicates that there is a problem and a solution not previously known to the public, then this is highly suggestive of a patentable invention and a good basis to forward with a patent application.
For more information on Patents, feel free to contact:
GEM Patent Services