Whether you’re an inventor trying to grow a startup or part of a research and development team at an established organization, existing patents will impact how you approach innovation. Patented products and processes in your field may inspire improvements to your invention or limit your ability to protect your own ideas.
While searching for existing patents does not always provide the results you hope for, it is essential. A comprehensive patent search can increase your confidence in the patentability of your final product, or help you decide a technology is no longer worth pursuing. Because patent searches have such extreme consequences, you must conduct them throughout the innovation cycle, including during ideation and before disclosing your invention.
4 Steps for Searching for Existing Patents
1. Describe Your Invention
To find patents similar to your invention, you must accurately describe your technology. Think about the product or process’s purpose and physical composition. Use relevant keywords, technical terms, and synonyms.
You may find yourself returning to this step throughout your search for existing patents. As you become more familiar with the technical language and classifications used to describe inventions like yours, you may want to reconsider how you’re searching for patents. Taking the time to refine your description will also make it easier for a professional patent searcher to find relevant results later on.
2. Utilize Patent Search Tools
Choose a patent search tool, such as InnovationQ Plus®, to find relevant results based on the description of your invention you wrote in step one. The semantic search capabilities of InnovationQ Plus® allow you to use natural language to find patents closely related to your idea. This makes InnovationQ Plus® more user-friendly for employees throughout the innovation cycle, because it eliminates the need for proficiency in technical patent searching methods, including patent classifications and Boolean search operators.
The InnovationQ Plus® database includes patents from around the world alongside non-patent literature. While searching this much technical content is overwhelming, the capabilities of our patent search software make it easy to start broad and refine your search results based on a number of filters. Plus, the AI-backed platform ranks results based on relevancy to help you prioritize which patents to review first.
3. Review Relevant Results
Once you have a list of patents that seem closely related to your invention, dive in. Review these patents’ claims, drawings, and specifications to determine if your new product or process would infringe on existing intellectual property. You’ll also want to review patents cited in your results set as well as patents that cite these patents for additional relevant results.
InnovationQ Plus® allows you to save your progress throughout this process, so you don’t waste time running the same searches multiple times or reviewing the same patent over and over.
4. Invest in a Professional Search
A professional patent search service may feel like an unnecessary expense when there are so many self-service patent search tools available. However, quickly combing through the millions of patent applications submitted every year, not to mention the vast databases of non-patent literature, is a skill. The cost of a couple of professional patent searches is worth it when the thousands of dollars it takes to patent an invention are at stake.
Investing in a professional patent search to find existing patents is especially important if you complete your own search and find no pertinent patents. In-depth, relevant search results—even if they uncover an invention similar to yours—make it more likely your patent application will describe a patentable technology.