Patent database is a collection of information pertaining to patents. It is always good to refer to do patent search in a patent database before investing thousands of dollars in patent application. This way inventors can save money if during the search in patent database they found out that the invention is a ‘prior art’. All is not lost for the inventor though if that happens because he or she can always claims certain elements of the proposed invention to be patentable.
It is possible to conduct your own patent search in a patent database without soliciting the help of a lawyer or patent agent. The most popular way to start patent search is through the USPTO patent database. While keyword searches using the U.S.P.T.O. Patent Database are the most popular means of search by a layperson, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office patent database only contains “keyword” searchable patent data from 1975 forward.
Therefore, even if you do not find a particular patent or concept in the patent database does not mean that the concept was not subject to a patent before 1975. In the case of articles of manufacture (in contrast to Internet method patents), it is particularly important that a manual search through the classes and sub-classes is conducted on the U.S. patent database.
Moreover, public disclosure or public use of the invention, even without patenting, renders it unpatentable. Accordingly, a search of public patent databases including publications and journals is also an important step to assure the patentability of the invention.
Pending patent applications are also maintained in confidence by the Patent and Trademark Office. To conform with international practice, the U.S. Patent Office will now publish a patent application, as it is first filed, 18 months after its filing date, however an applicant can avoid this publication by filing notice with the Patent Office that the applicant will not seek foreign patent protection.
For these reasons, even the best patent search in patent database may fail to disclose a pending application. Recognizing these caveats, your search of the USPTO Patent database should give you an initial determination as to the applicability of the patents found. If you are uncomfortable proceeding beyond a keyword search in patent database however, retaining a professional search is highly recommended.
Even after the search, it is important to understand how to compare the prior patents with your own invention. The boundaries of an invention are defined by the claims. The limitations expressed in the claims must be understood before the patentability of your own invention can be determined.