Patent search and analysis is an essential part of the innovation process. A thorough look at the relevant prior art can impact how: engineers ideate; R&D teams allocate resources; patent lawyers frame applications; and how all of these teams work together. Because this process is a cycle, misinformation at one stage can easily impact the subsequent steps.
A free patent search engine might seem cost-effective now, but relying on a less sophisticated solution can leave holes in your understanding of the prior art. Missing relevant patents could lead you to see white space that isn’t really there, costing your business time and exposing it to risk, both of which are potentially expensive missteps.
When you’re working with highly trained professionals, including scientists and legal experts, time is valuable. Free patent search tools use less sophisticated algorithms than their paid counterparts, which means that finding relevant patents is more time-consuming. The databases may not be as up-to-date or comprehensive, leaving searchers at a disadvantage from the very beginning.
You also may find that these tools specialize in one element of patent searching, such as including patents from a specific patent office, translating patents into English, or offering a streamlined user interface. The most efficient patent search tools will excel at all elements of prior art research that matter to your business.
Free tools also often lack the ability to dive into patent analysis using filters and visualizations. Many paid tools allow for saving searches and sharing them among team members, encouraging collaboration. Free patent search platforms often do not offer these features, leading to siloed teams and stagnant innovation.
In order to mitigate risk, you must first identify it.
The information you might miss during a free patent search, whether due to less sophisticated algorithms or incomplete databases, exposes your business to risk. When you use a free tool, you’re entrusting it with your innovative (and hopefully valuable) information. While some tools may offer assurances about the privacy of your searches, others may not.
You also may not be able to save and schedule searches. Without this automated technology, you could miss prior art—especially in highly competitive, quickly changing landscapes.
Wasting time and exposing your business to risk have the potential to be financially detrimental. There are ways entrusting your innovation process to an incomplete patent search solution can directly cost your business as well. You may end up prioritizing resources for a technology that you believe is novel—when it actually isn’t. These tools also lack analytical capabilities, so you’ll likely need to invest in a professional’s report on the landscape and your freedom to operate within it at some point as well.