Not long ago, patent searching was seen as the exclusive domain of IP departments. Some company cultures discouraged researchers, engineers, and other inventors from looking at patents at all, fearing it would limit innovation or even lead to (inadvertent) infringement. Before intuitive patent databases, patent searching also required specialized skills, as well as a lot of time.
The Limitations of a Siloed Approach
In most organizations. IP and R&D departments are separate, although often share a common goal: driving and monetizing innovation. Sometimes, teams are restricted from viewing full patent documents, which may limit their ability to learn from existing documentation and prior art. This might result in advancing solutions that aren’t novel or otherwise patentable, which slows down the innovation review cycle. This is particularly true if submissions go between legal and engineering a few times before the concept is well understood and considered unique.
For example, every team has its own vernacular—a set of terms, words, and acronyms that are well understood in their world but may be confusing or misunderstood by others. It is a big time-saver to have a tool that flags jargon, uncommon terms, and other internal-speak when drafting your ideas for review. Clearly written disclosures with common terms move more quickly through a review cycle than those that have to go back to an inventor for clarification before they can be assessed.
Understanding the Value of Patent Research
Semantic patent search software (like InnovationQ Plus®) makes finding relevant patents and non-patent literature possible with just a conversational search query. InnovationQ Plus enables both semantic and Boolean search capabilities in one platform. Users can use one or both methodologies while honing their search.
Patents offer complete descriptions of the concepts they protect. After all, “a patent specification must describe the claimed invention in sufficient detail that one skilled in the art can reasonably conclude that the inventor had possession of the claimed invention.” It is understandable that a company might worry about engineers being influenced by these details. However, access to this information allows R&D teams to prioritize solutions that are unique and informed by patent and prior art review.
Engineers with a better understanding of patents can work with IP teams to develop stronger patent applications. Broad patent language can seem “obvious” (and therefore not patentable) to an experienced engineer. Yet, this is exactly what makes a patent valuable for years to come. An R&D team that is familiar with patents, from searching for existing patents to writing strong invention disclosures, may be better able to anticipate and prevent infringement.