Once an invention has been built, or at least described in thorough detail, then the question has to be asked, “Has someone else already thought of this?” The process of answering this question presents a bit of a catch-22, as you can only patent your idea if it’s original, but you don’t want to tip your hand to a potential competitor. This is one of the many instances in which a patent attorney can help.
Conducting a patent search can be useful, no matter where you are in the invention process. If you are in the planning stages, identifying specific areas in which there is little competition will allow you to steer your invention in that direction. This means that there will be less material from competitors that an examiner could use to limit the scope of your invention.
On the other hand, if your invention is complete (or nearly so), your patent attorney will have the details necessary to draft patent claims that will not interfere with the claims of others, significantly simplifying the process.
Patent searches do carry risk.
Once you’ve conducted a patent search, you have to act on what you’ve learned. First, all of the material found in the patent search must be disclosed if it relates to any of your claims. Secondly, if there is a valid patent that overlaps with your invention, you are now on notice that you may be infringing that patent. If the owner of the patent sues for infringement and can show your patent search as evidence of your knowledge of infringement, they may be able to obtain treble damages (triple the standard compensatory damages), as well as attorneys’ fees.
Once you have this material you can get a better idea of how to pursue your invention, or whether you should propose a license agreement with another inventor.
How O’Brien can help you with your patent search.
The Law Office of Michael O’Brien offers three kinds of patent searches.
- A simple search of patents and published patent applications published throughout the world. This costs about $1500 and takes 7-10 days.
- A broad search of scientific papers and dissertations worldwide, in addition to the patents and patent applications in the comprehensive search. This costs about $2,500 and takes two to three weeks.
- An invalidity search, which looks for material that exists which could render existing patent claims unenforceable. This tends to focus on specific claims made in a patent, rather than inventions as a whole. This costs about $3,500.
When we perform a patent search, you will receive a letter describing your invention, any patents we uncovered, and information on the sources of the discovered information. Everything I produce is absolutely confidential, unless you choose to pursue filing a patent through our office.