Provo, UT asked in Patents (Intellectual Property) for Utah

Q: What is the best way to search and see of a product ideas that i have is currently already patents?

2 Lawyer Answers
Peter D. Mlynek
Peter D. Mlynek
  • Patents Lawyer
  • Moorestown, NJ

A: It is not easy. Many people make a living doing patent searches.

One way is to do a keyword search on the USPTO website

Try various Boolean searches.

One big problem that you will run into is that there are so many different ways of saying the same thing, or calling something by any number of names. Therefore, you will need to search for your product using various synonyms.

Another way of doing a search is to look through patents of the same class. Figure out in which one of the thousands of patent classes your invention belongs, and go through the list of several hundred patents.

Trying different approaches is important, as well as doing many different searches. Just keep at it.

How do you know when you are done? You never really know, but once you recognize that no matter which way you form the query, you keep running into the same 30 or 50 patents and no new patents are closer, then you know that you've hit the point of diminishing returns.

Good luck!

Kevin E. Flynn
Kevin E. Flynn
  • Patents Lawyer
  • Chapel Hill, NC

A: Searching for relevant patents is a skill. The results of the search are a function of the tools used, your technique and amount of effort, and sometimes some good luck. One useful pair of skills that you need to add is backward and forwards chaining.

So if you find that patent 8,000,000 is relevant. Using backward chaining, you go back to patent 7,000,000 as that was cited by the examiner during the examination of the application that led to patent 8,000,000. Thus important patent 8,000,000 led you to patent 7,000,000 even if patent 7,000,000 used quirky terms and you would not find it doing a pure text based search.

You can forward chain by using the tools to find out what newer patent cited patent 8,000,000 in the examination process. This may lead you to patent 9,000,000. Again, you find patent 9,000,000 even if it uses quirky terms as it was originally written in German and then translated into English.

The process continues as you backward and forward chain from earlier patent 7,000,000 and later patent 9,000,000. Then you may backward and forward chain from relevant patents found there. Eventually, you find that the links via chains are to patents you have already found and thus you know that you have the relevant set.

Sometimes a chaining exercise leads you off the path as it shows you a patent that was relevant to one feature in patent 8,000,000 but not the main feature that you cared about. You just treat that as a dead end and do not chain from that found but irrelevant patent.

My slide set on patent searching for entrepreneurs goes over these concepts and other tricks.

I hope this helps.

Kevin E Flynn

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