Before committing to the cost of a patent application, it is usually a good idea to do some searching to check whether your idea is new and inventive (non-obvious) – the two main obstacles to obtaining a patent. We have written an information leaflet on the pros and cons of pre-filing searches, which you can download here.
Fortunately, there is a lot of information about potential prior art on the web, and we suggest that you carry out some keyword and image searching on terms that are relevant to your invention. This provides a good starting point and can help to quickly identify manufacturers and designers that are active in your chosen technology sector. It is also a good idea to use search engines that allow you to restrict to “shopping” results, so that you can see if your invention is already on sale. Sites such as Google shopping, Ebay and Amazon are quite good for this.
Thereafter, you can try doing some patent searching on databases such as theespacenet or the Google Patents database, which allow you to search using keywords, names, dates and patent numbers. You can also access national/regional intellectual property office’s databases online, such as OHIM’s database of Registered Community Designs, which may help you to identify relevant prior art, as well as Google Scholarto help you to find scientific literature that might be relevant.
What you’re looking for is examples of ideas or products that are identical or similar to what you are proposing to do. If you find something that’s exactly the same as what your invention, then you’re extremely unlikely to be able to obtain a valid patent for your idea. However, if there are any differences between your invention and the prior art that you have identified, then it may be possible to obtain a patent if those differences are not trivial, f they give rise to an unexpected effect or advantage, if they solve a technical problem or if they provide an alternative (not necessarily a better) way of doing something. The legal tests for patentability are set out quite nicely in Part G of the European Patent Office’s Guidelines for Examination, which can be found here. Please bear in mind, however, that patent law and practice varies considerably from country to country, so although the EPO’s guide is relevant to European patents, it does not necessarily apply elsewhere.
WHAT WE CAN DO TO HELP
We are experts in advising on patentability, drafting patent specifications. We have put together a pre-filing patentability search package, which, in our experience, strikes an excellent balance between cost, search quality and lead time. As is explained in our flyer (here), there is a trade-off between the time and money spent searching (the more the better) and that cost and time eating into you patenting budget (the less the better).
Our pre-filing search package costs just £500 + VAT and involves an initial discussion with you to understand the underlying invention, us drafting a “pseudo patent claim” for an external search agent to search against along with supporting sketches and preferred embodiments, the external search agent’s fee, forwarding the external search agent’s search report and us providing our opinion on a putative patent application’s prospects of success. The turnaround for this service is usually 2-3 weeks. Please contact us if you would like to enquire about this service.