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Patent Searching

By Jill Gilbert Welytok

If you're convinced you've discovered something novel, you need to see if anyone else may have entertained similar thoughts. The patent application process begins with a prior art search of previously existing technology and inventions.

Although you may undertake a search of PTO records on your own, if you feel something is truly at stake, you may feel economically justified in hiring a certified patent attorney or agent who in turn may hire a professional search firm to undertake the search of previous patents. The attorney or agent initially acts as sort of a paid skeptic, attempting to identify all of the objections, issues and arguments that may be raised by the PTO in the course of reviewing your patent.

Professional Patent Researchers

Your attorney or agent generally doesn't obtain documents directly from the patent office, but probably hires a professional research company to undertake a novelty search. The professional researcher is usually familiar with the area of technology for which your patent is sought and combs through all of the patent office records for potentially relevant documents.

Once the patent attorney has located a researcher with the necessary technical expertise in the specific field, it's up to the attorney to formulate a well-defined request. The request should include a through description of the invention, a diagram or picture of the invention and information about any known patents. This information is usually provided to the researcher in the form of a letter, which includes the request to undertake the search.

The researcher ultimately provides your attorney with the results of his or her search, which includes copies of the patent applications for similar or closely related inventions initially by comparing the abstracts contained within the patents.


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