What is a Prior Art?
Prior art search refers to the process of finding relevant literature (called as a prior art) that is available in public domain before a particular date. While conducting a search the main focus of the researcher is to locate the closest possible prior art related to a particular invention or idea. Thus, prior art is simply an evidence or proof for existence of a technology-related inventive concept, available publicly. The exact application, meaning and concerned date of the prior art is bounded by various national patent laws. The most common sources of prior art are granted patents, published patent applications and non-patent literature (NPL) such as any published journals, product specifications, whitepapers, books, academic research papers, internet publications etc. Prior art also includes any documentation of the product, its evidence of sale or public use. You can also conduct the search yourself only if you know the Different Steps in a Prior Art Search.
Databases for Patent Search
A number of free and paid databases are available where the patent searching can be performed. These databases cover a worldwide country scope.
Some paid databases are:
- Thomson Innovation
- Derwent World Patent Index (DWPI)
Orbit.com is used for design patent search.
Free Databases include: Google Patents and Espacenet.
Several regional/national databases are also used for country-specific search like:
- PAJ for Japanese (JP) patents
- Kipris for Korean (KR) patents
- AusPat for Australian (AU) patents
- SIPO/CNPAT for Chinese (CN) patents
- And so on….
Apart from the above mentioned databases, XLPAT- an automated patent search and analysis tool is also used for patent and non-patent literature search. This fully automated tool has a great advantage in exploring every aspect in the domain of patent technology. XLPAT is a powerful tool developed using 9 years of IP search experience at TTC, to enhance the quality of prior art searches.
Strategies for Patent Search
A standard patent search on any of the above mentioned databases includes the following key steps:
- Understanding the claims/novelty of the invention
- Webbing of the Subject Patent (subject patent refers to the patent to be invalidated)
Patent Webbing refers to the analysis of the backward citations and forward citation of the subject patent. This is done by taking into account the forward citations of the backward citations and backward citations of the forward citations.
Suppose A is the backward citation of the subject Patent and B is the forward citation of the subject Patent.
X = All forward citations of A
Y = All backward citations of B
Webbing = X OR Y
- Inequitable Search
This is an important step while conducting an invalidity search. Inequitable Search is done to identify any extra citation cited in any of the family members of the subject patent.
Suppose B = Backward Citations of the Subject Patent
A= Backward Citations of the family members of the subject Patent
Inequitable Search = A NOT B
- Keyword based search
Identify the relevant keywords and their logical variations/synonyms. Combine the keywords in a logical fashion to form search queries.
- Classification based search
Various Classifications such as IPC, CPC, US, and ECLA are used in search strings. Fully Independent Class based search is performed for an extensive search in a technology domain.
- Assignee and Inventor name based search
- Complex search strings or combinational search
Broad and narrow search strings are used to approach the prior art from different directions. Logically relevant keywords and classes are combined to create a complex query to approach more relevant results.
- Applying Restrictions:
- Search in Select Sections of Patent Applications. Patent databases allow searching within: text sections, title, abstract, claims, bibliographic details.
- Search using date criteria (usually the earliest priority date)
- Non-patent search (not relevant in case of an FTO search)
- Citation analysis
Analysis of forward and backward patent and non-patent citations of the most relevant patents identified in the above steps.
Prior art searches can be performed by an individual using a number of databases listed above. One may take assistance of professional patent search firms to conduct a more thorough and comprehensive search using a combination of paid databases.