American intellectual property law aims to protect the original work of creative and innovative individuals and businesses. There are a number of legal tools available designed to safeguard creative work against infringement by those who might seek to use and/or profit off intellectual property that is not rightfully theirs. For example, copyrights protect works of original authorship like original creative fiction, visual art and musical compositions. Trademarks help to ensure that words, phrases and graphics used to distinguish companies and their products from competitors are not taken advantage of. And patents protect original products, processes and designs that are both new and novel.
Before you submit a patent application, it is important to conduct a search of existing patents on both a domestic level and an international one. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will not extend patent protections to products, processes or designs that too closely resemble any that have already received legal recognition anywhere in the world. Conducting a thorough patent search before you submit your application will better help to ensure that the work you present to the USPTO will be favorably received.
It is generally a good idea to retain the services of an experienced intellectual property attorney when constructing your patent application and conducting your final search. The patent application process is surprisingly complex and detailed in nature. Additionally, the patent search and clearance search steps of this process are almost painfully nuanced and time-intensive. Because receiving patent protections for your creative work is essential to ensuring that you can use and/or profit off of it without exposing yourself to legal liabilities and infringement, ensuring that the USPTO will approve your application is critically important. Working with an experienced attorney will give you the best possible shot at application approval.
However, you may benefit from doing some work on your own before you consult an attorney. One of the major benefits of conducting a search of existing patents is that you will be given a strong sense of whether your work must be altered before it can be submitted for approval. If your work clearly mirrors a product, process or design that is already patented, you can make adjustments in order to ensure its originality. That way, you will both be better placed to obtain USPTO approval and to avoid infringing upon the protected work of another individual or business. Then, when your work is ready for a final patent search check and for you to start your application in earnest, you can consult an attorney with confidence. Google allows users to search their existing patent database for free and is an excellent resource for innovative individuals and companies.
How Does a Google Patent Search Work?
Google has created a database that contains virtually all of the information currently accessible in the patent search database run by the USPTO. However, Google’s platform is far more user-friendly than the USPTO’s platform is. When your attorney conducts a final, formal patent search, he or she will likely use a paid database in addition to the free USPTO and Google resources. Many paid databases are ideal for searching because they do an excellent job of tracking the search itself and cataloging results. However, these databases are so expensive that it does not make practical sense for individual inventors and small businesses to invest in them. For the purposes of doing a “first look” check for prior art related to your product, process or design, Google’s platform is all you really need. Your attorney will handle the more detailed final search later in the process.
Just as you would when using Google’s general search features, you will use a search bar for simple searches within the Google patent database. Topics, keywords, patent publications and other information can all be accessed by navigating the search bar. This simple search feature even looks remarkably similar to the general Google search function, so it is not at all intimidating. But before diving in, consider constructing a plan of action. Note what kinds of keywords, general topics and publications you would like to search for so that you can keep track of the work you have completed. Because you could spend an endless amount of time searching for existing patents, preparing for your search will save you time and sanity. A plan of action will also help you to know when to stop searching in order to return to your work and eventually contact an attorney. Taking a first look at possible forms of prior art does not need to lead you “down the rabbit hole.”
When you do opt to look at specific patents contained within the search results of any of your queries, consider taking notes about whether any given patent may constitute prior art. You will be able to save these notes in a document and share them with your attorney later on. Your attorney will then be able to advise you about whether any specific search result could impact the success of your patent application.
Intellectual Property Assistance Is Available
Applying for a patent is a notoriously complex, time-consuming and challenging process. Additionally, the patent search and clearance search steps within this process can be truly tedious in nature. Please consider one of our intellectual property attorneys to take a significant burden off of your shoulders by completing much of this process on our end. That way, you can focus on innovating while we utilize our extensive experience to protect your creative work.