When an innovative individual or enterprising business creates something new, it is generally important to seek proper legal protections for that novel creation. The law recognizes various kinds of intellectual property rights, so it is important to speak with an experienced attorney about which form is appropriate for your recent creation. In general, copyrights protect original works of authorship and artistry. Trademarks protect the kinds of words and images that businesses use to distinguish themselves and their products from competitors and competing products. Non-disclosure agreements help to safeguard the trade secrets that each company uses to gain and maintain a competitive edge. And patent protections help to ensure that inventors are granted exclusive rights to use and/or profit off their novel products, processes and designs for a period of time.
If you or your business wishes to protect a new product, process or design, your intellectual property attorney will be able to assist you in applying for a design, plant or utility patent. Of all the forms of intellectual property protections that the government issues, patents are the most notoriously difficult to secure successfully. As a result, experienced intellectual property attorneys take great care to ensure that their clients’ applications are filled out properly and completely, are supported with adequate and relevant documentation, are executed promptly in order to unnecessarily avoid the appearance of potentially damaging new prior art and are checked against a full and complete search of existing patents.
Each of these time-intensive, nuanced and relatively tedious steps helps to ensure the ultimate success of an aspiring patent-holder’s application. The United States Patent and Trademark Office takes every line on a patent application seriously and enforces its rules strictly. This is partially why it is so critical to hire an attorney experienced in submitting successful patent applications. These professionals understand the kind of detailed information, formatting and research it takes in order to obtain USPTO approval of an application.
While an attorney’s professional knowledge and experience benefit an applicant at every step, it is generally true that the patent search aspect of the process is where an attorney’s guidance is most useful. The USPTO will not approve patent protections for a new product or design if its fundamental elements are already legally protected by a previously approved patent. As a result, it is critical to ascertain whether any prior art exists that may impact the success of a current application before it is submitted. When attorneys conduct a final patent check, they research and analyze all relevant prior art in order to determine whether a current application may be affected by these pieces.
“First Look” Free Patent Searches
When your attorney conducts a final patent search, he or she will generally utilize several resources, including a subscription database of previous patents granted by the USPTO. Subscription databases help attorneys to conduct detailed searches of both obvious and obscure patents that are relevant to an applicant. They also often do an excellent job of tracking and analyzing an attorney’s search. These databases are too expensive for businesses and individuals to access for initial searches. However, before your attorney conducts a final search using resources like these, it may significantly benefit your process to conduct a free, “first look” search of existing patents on either Google’s patent site and/or the USPTO’s free database.
A first look search will allow you to determine relatively quickly whether your new product or design closely mirrors a protected work. While your attorney’s search will focus on sources of prior art that are less obvious, your search will likely be able to tell you whether you need to rethink elements of your product or design before proceeding with the rest of your application. If protected work fundamentally mirrors yours, you will be able to adjust your product or design accordingly until it is more likely to be approved by the USPTO.
Both the USPTO’s database and Google patents contain roughly the same information. It is worth noting that Google’s platform functions much like its home search page and is more intuitive than the USPTO’s database, so you may want to start there. Before you begin, it will likely be helpful to compile a list of the terms and topics you intend to search. These terms and topics should include the most pressing and fundamental elements of your product or design. When you begin searching these terms and topics, please take notes related to each patent (or piece of patent-related literature) you come across that may be relevant to your application. Please also note if you read into the details of any seemingly relevant patent that is not ultimately a “match” for your work. You can then process your notes in any way you believe may be helpful and then show them to your attorney.
When discussing your first look notes with your attorney, please take time to ask any questions that your search may have inspired. Remaining active in your application process can only benefit your ultimate goal. Your attorney’s knowledge and experience are resources you should seek out whenever you believe you may need them.
Intellectual Property Assistance Is Available
The patent search process may be notoriously complex and tedious, but the intellectual property attorneys at LawTrades understands how to navigate it thoroughly and accurately. In addition, our extensive experience with the search process allows us to conduct such searches without needless delays.