During the innovation cycle, it’s important to remain aware of the landscape you’re inventing within. Completing a prior art search at multiple points throughout the process identifies similar inventions previously patented or disclosed in nonpatent literature. The results of the search can help organizations decide if an innovation can or should be protected by a patent and inform long-term intellectual property strategies. This type of research is also referred to as a patentability search.
There are many reasons to understand the state of the art. They vary, depending on the stage of innovation and if the searcher is a researcher, inventor, engineer, attorney, professor, or examiner. Completing a prior art search during ideation and before applying for a patent can justify the cost of moving forward with added confidence in a technology’s patentability and validity.
How to Search for Prior Art
A comprehensive search begins with a clear understanding of your new technology and good prior art search tools. IP.com’s Prior Art Database is the largest aggregator of prior art, pulling from sources such as our own Journal, the IBM Technical Disclosure Bulletin, and the Software Patent Institute. IP.com’s InnovationQ® Plus offers advanced search and reporting capabilities to find the most relevant patents and other prior art. Additional prior art search tools and sources include Google Patents, and databases from the USPTO, EU, and WIPO, as well as Google Scholar, industry journals, and your competitors’ websites.
Finding what you’re looking for starts with a keyword or concept search. For more relevant results, continue searching for results using keywords and concepts included in the prior art uncovered by your first few searches. This technique will help you find other relevant pieces of literature utilizing the same industry-specific terminology. After identifying relevant patents and nonpatent literature, review the documents they cite for additional, closely related, prior art.
Refining Your Prior Art Search
The volume of available prior art is overwhelming. It is not humanly possible to review every disclosure related to your invention. Learning how to refine your search for prior art is essential. While you’ll rarely find what you’re looking for immediately, the right prior art search tools can help you evaluate and refine your search for more relevant results.
The more powerful your prior art search engine, the more tailored your search results will be. Our Prior Art Database allows searchers to refine by date range and original publishing source, as well as utilize Boolean filters. InnovationQ Plus offers a multitude of filters that complement the tool’s semantic and Boolean search capabilities. Gain insights and further refine your search with visualizations of:
- CPC, IPC, account, assignee, and inventor by count or relevance
- Publication, application, earliest priority, and term date
- Collections, country of origin, and enforceability
- Term clouds and term heat maps
For more ways to refine your patent and prior art searches, watch our full webinar on Best Practices in Prior Art Searching: Reviewing Results and Refining Search.