If you are an inventor or represent an innovative business, you may have questions about protecting your intellectual property rights. American law provides a number of tools designed to safeguard the work of creative individuals and enterprising businesses. The four primary tools available include copyrights, trademarks, trade secret agreements and patents. Patent protections are specifically extended to new, novel and non-obvious products, processes, designs and asexually reproducing plant species and hybrids.
When navigating the patent application process, it is critically important to work with an experienced intellectual property attorney in order to ensure that your application is complete, properly supported and likely to succeed. Individuals and businesses that fail to secure patent protections in a timely manner leave themselves vulnerable to legal liabilities and their work vulnerable to infringement by others. Although it may be tempting to complete the patent application process alone in order to save a bit of money, securing a patent is notoriously complex work. Of all the safeguards that the law provides for the protection of creative and innovative work, patents are traditionally the most difficult to secure. As a result, working with an attorney from the beginning of the application process is ideal because this partnership will serve to set you up for success whenever possible.
Why Conduct a Patent Search?
One of the most urgent tasks your attorney will undertake on your behalf is conducting a thorough search of existing domestic and global patents. This search will help to ensure that the United States Patent and Trademark Office does not reject your application because your work too closely mirrors fundamental elements of other protected work. Final patent searches are time-intensive and take significant skill. But “first look” patent searches may be conducted by inventors themselves and can be beneficial for a number of reasons.
Before your attorney will be able to finalize any work related to your patent application, your product, process, design or plant must be close to completion. If you conduct a “first look” patent search on your own, you should be able to determine whether there is any obvious existing prior art that is so similar to your work that it renders it ineligible for patent protections as it is currently constructed. At that point, you will be able to alter your work in ways that make it eligible for legal protection. After your work has been effectively altered, your attorney will be able to conduct a final patent search in order to make sure that no other sources of prior art have been missed. At that point, you will be able to submit your patent application with a great deal of confidence. Similarly, if you do not locate any significant sources of prior art during your first look search, you will be able to move forward with your application without altering your work, provided that your attorney does not uncover any similar patents during his or her final search.
Free Searches on Google Patents
There are a number of ways that individuals can search for existing patents. Your attorney will likely conduct his or her final, complete search using a paid subscription service. These services are excellent for broad searches, partially because they are nuanced and accurately track and analyze search results. But subscription services are impractical for individuals and most businesses as they are quite expensive. Because you will be relying on an attorney’s skill to uncover subtle prior art results, your first look can be completed using simpler, free platforms.
The USPTO provides the public with free access to its patent search database. And while this platform is certainly an excellent resource, it is not very user friendly, especially for individuals who are not highly experienced in patent searching techniques. Thankfully, Google has created a free platform that features virtually all of the information provided by the USPTO database. And as an added bonus, the Google patent platform looks and functions much like Google’s general search page. This familiarity tends to serve searchers well, as Google is quite intuitive.
Before beginning your search on Google patents, consider making a list of key terms, technologies, topics and literature you believe are fundamental to your creation. That way, you will be able to browse the most relevant possible results. It is easy to get bogged down in pages and pages of results, so stick to the most important terms in order to avoid a research-related slippery slope. If you are not finding glaring pieces of prior art, chances are that you can wrap up your first look and leave the subtler searching and analysis to your attorney. The Google patents simple search function behaves much like the general Google search does. Just as users don’t often look past the first few pages of search results with ordinary Google searches (because the results become less relevant as the search widens) you don’t generally need to look far to determine if your searches are stumbling upon relevant results.
Intellectual Property Guidance Is Available
If you are interested in securing patent protections for your novel product, process, design or plant species, please consider connecting with LawTrades and requesting a consultation with an intellectual property attorney. The LawTrades team is passionate about securing intellectual property protections for innovative work and enforcing those protections when necessary. We have extensive experience working with individual inventors and enterprising businesses, so we have a strong sense of just how much dedication and commitment it takes to create a new and non-obvious product, process or design. This is one of the reasons why we intentionally ensure that our attorneys’ rates are reasonable – we want as many inventors and businesses as possible to benefit from the safeguards that the law provides.
You have worked hard to invent something new. Let our team work hard to protect it. From preparing your application document to conducting a thorough and reliable final patent search, our intellectual property team of attorneys is ready to serve the legal needs associated with your creative work. We look forward to speaking with you.