I’m Andy Berks, patent attorney and innovation enthusiast. Today I’m going to tell you why you should get a prior art search if you’ve made an invention and are thinking of filing a patent application.
A key feature of patents is they only protect new things. One of the major policy purposes of patents is to advance the state of technology. So patents must cover material that is novel and not obvious. And when a patent examiner starts to review the application, that’s one of the main things they’re looking for.
So how do you really know if your invention is new? A common mistake by inexperienced inventors is thinking that if they haven’t seen their invention in a store or on Amazon that it’s new. But the problem is you have no way of knowing if somebody somewhere hasn’t filed a patent application on your exact invention. The patent application gets published, which is how patents work nowadays – but the inventor loses interest and the idea is never developed. So the patent application becomes prior art and it can block you from getting a patent.
You can defend against this problem by having an expert do a search. I do these searches myself and I have access to premium search tools and I often find these kinds of prior art references, even if they haven’t been commercially developed.
There is a second important reason to do a search and that is because when writing a patent application related art can be very helpful in the drafting process and avoiding obviousness rejections. A search may turn up a variation on your invention and if you discuss these things through the disclosure, you can work around them and they’re less likely to be less likely to be used against you by the patent examiner in an obviousness rejection.