Performing such a search can prevent investors and inventors from wasting valuable resources pursuing a product or design that someone else has already patented.

Searching existing granted patents and applications provides lots of information, but the process can be time-consuming and daunting for individuals who aren't familiar with the system. A patent attorney can help streamline the search and confirm that you aren't infringing on any patents.

Patent Infringement Search: An Introduction

It's never too early to perform a patent infringement search, even if you think the final invention might evolve and take a totally different form. However, checking that your concept doesn't infringe on any other inventions can give you peace of mind to pursue an innovation. It can also help you discover similar products or processes and lead you to create something totally new or add to an existing idea in a totally unique and distinguishable way.

Moreover, a patent infringement search helps keep individuals and companies from wasting precious time and money on research and development that ultimately must be thrown out because it violates an existing patent.

A patent search, also known as a novelty search, is performed to identify patent applications and granted patents that protect existing ideas. With this knowledge, individuals and business owners can safely move forward researching something that they hope to patent soon.

Unfortunately, searching through existing patents is not an easy process. Millions of patents are listed as pending approval, and millions more have already been approved and protect current products across all markets. A potential patent holder must also consider foreign patents, past applications, and the existence of any prior art that may lead to the rejection of a patent claim or issues with litigation in the future.

Work with a patent attorney to ensure due diligence in this process. A legal expert can help you:

  • Determine prior art: Infringing on patents as well as ideas that are part of the existing body of public knowledge.
  • Minimize rejections and avoid infringements: Patent examiners may reject an application because it infringes on existing patents.
  • Prepare applications: A patent attorney can also ensure that your application is appropriately specific and meets all of the patent office's requirements for approval.

Remember that while a patent infringement search can help you avoid issues with infringement and prior art, it can also help you confirm whether the patent application is likely to pass approval from the relevant patent office. This is key to helping filers minimize costs associated with filing and modifying patent applications.

What Is Patent Infringement?

Patent infringement is when a business or individual infringes on a patented invention without the patent holder's permission. A person infringes on a patent when they make, use, sell, or offer to sell patented items.

To avoid infringement, an individual or business who wants to use a product needs a commercial license to use the patented item. This typically involves paying royalties. However, patent protections do have national limitations. People in countries where an invention is not patented may make, sell, or use a patented invention in that country. An infringement search is also limited to the country in which a governing body may enforce patents.

A person may use an infringement search to check:

  • Claim amendments during a prosecution
  • Illegal uses of a patented invention
  • Licensing opportunities
  • Opportunities to monetize patents

Patent attorneys can provide valuable guidance about patent rights, how to negotiate license agreements, what adjustments you need to make to your patent, and more. A patent attorney can also advise you about other options, such as invalidating the patented invention, cross licensing, negotiating a license agreement, or waiting until the infringed patent expires.

If a patent has expired, for example, the original owner cannot file a claim against you for infringement. However, the patent owner has six years from the expiration date to pursue action against a person for infringing on the patent when it was still active.

If you need help with a patent infringement search, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.