Doing a Google Patent Search – Patents

I’ve found the easiest way to do a preliminary patent search is to do a Google Patent search. You can put in a simple search term and then work from its database to get a good idea if your product idea has already been patented. This search won’t necessarily reveal every other patent but it is a good start. Another good aspect of the Google patent search site is that it lists the patents pending that are published by the patent office but haven’t yet been issued.To get the most out of a Google search you can’t just put in the name of your idea and then do a Google search. That will leave out far too many patents where the patent application uses different terms than yours. You need to look instead at all the citations listed in the patents to find out more.To give you a better idea of how to get the maximum benefit, I’ve listed all the steps and procedures for an inventor who came up with the idea of having an electric plug where a child could not pull the plug out of a socket.Step 1: General Search TermI entered in Google search box the term Safe Electric Plug. Then I connected to the patents that were listed till I found one that was most like the product idea. The patent that seemed closest was Safety socket and plug arrangement US Pat. 5702259 – Filed Aug 12, 1996. I clicked on that patent and though the idea wasn’t the same it had the same general purpose so I could use it as a starting point.Step 2: Check for “Citations” and “Referenced By” Sections on the Google siteWhile you are looking at a patent, stroll down just a little ways and you will see on the left side of the screen sections called “Citations” and “Referenced By”.”Citations” are patents that the patent you looking at references as prior art. “Referenced By” are patents that cite the patent you are looking at as prior art. In this particular example, the patent we are looking at was issued in 1996, but the “Referenced By” section list patents that were listed all the way to 2008. So you are able by using this technique to see many if not most of the recent patent application that are similar to your product idea.Patent applications need to list possible competing patents and then explain how the new patent application does not infringe on the other existing patents. Typically patent applications reference many patents that are in many cases only marginally similar to the product idea detailed in the application. Which means if you can just get close to you idea you can usually zero in on patents that are closest to your idea.Step 3: Click on the “Citations” and “Referenced By” Patents to Find the Patent that is Closest to Your IdeaIn the case of our plug that a child couldn’t easily remove from the socket, the closest idea listed was Patent number: 6988903, Filing date: Mar 31, 2005, Issue date: Jan 24, 2006, Inventor: Jen-Jen Cheng, Assignees: Edac Power Electronics Co., Ltd.Step 4: Click on the “Citations” and “Referenced By” Patents Listed in the Patent Closest to Your Idea to Find More Patents that Have Been Issued that Might be Very Close to Your IdeaIn this particular case, when checking the “Citations” and “Referenced By” patents in the patent listed above, I found a patent very close to the product idea was Patent number: 6893275, Filing date: Feb 26, 2003, Issue date: May 17, 2005, Inventors: Kenneth Ng, Edmund Ng, Assignee: Koncept Technologies Inc.What to Do with the InformationJust because you see a patent similar to yours doesn’t mean you can’t apply and obtain a patent; that is a decision that can be better made by a patent attorney. But the search does give you information that better allows you to move forward. If their has been heavy patent activity related to your idea, the odds are you will only be able to obtain a patent with narrow, specific claims that might not prevent competition. If you do see a lot of activity you still may be willing to proceed with your idea, but you should realize that it is difficult to license an idea with a narrow claim and you will have the risk of someone changing your concept slightly and then quickly competing with you. So you would want to limit your investment as the probability of success would be lower.Narrow vs Broad ClaimsIn the previous paragraph I mentioned the concept of narrow claims. When discussing patents you will often hear the term narrow and broad patent claims. Most of the industry feels narrow claims have limited value while broad claims can be very valuable. But in reality many narrow patents are broad enough to offer protection and even a very narrow patent has value if only limited number of design choices can implement the inventor’s idea.A broad claim is abstract and vague and covers a lot ground. The gist of Samuel Morse’s original patent claim for example was for the “use of electromagnetism for making or printing intelligible characters at any distance.” That is a very broad claim with tremendous value. (The patent office didn’t accept this claim and Morse was forced to narrow it down).A narrow patent has many specifics, and to infringe on a narrow patent the infringing product must infringe on each element of the claim. An example of a narrow claim for a shower caddy Patent number: 5014860, Filing date: Aug 1, 1989, Issue date: May 14, 1991A caddy device for installation on a non-porous wall comprising:-a frame having a horizontal arm element;-a plurality of members attached perpendicularly to said horizontal element;-a horizontal bar attached to said perpendicular members, with each end of said horizontal bar being open to receive a suction cup in slidable relation therewith; and-connecting members fastened at each end to said frame to form a caddy device.How to ProceedRemember searching Google is just a preliminary search, and it just gives you an idea of the prior art patent activity related to your product. It lets you know if you have a truly unique idea that no one else has ever thought of. If there is activity that is not identical with your idea, take the patents you have to a patent attorney and get a professional opinion from a patent attorney on whether or not you can get a patent that will minimize direct competition.

What Patent Strategies Can Be Used to Improve Competitiveness of a Business? – Patents

IntroductionThe concept of patents can be traced back to the 14th century and it has consistently evolved over time. The concept of patents was introduced to encourage innovators by awarding exclusive rights over the improvements in technology made by them. In essence, a patent is a set of exclusive rights granted by a country in exchange for a public disclosure of their invention. The rights granted to a patentee, in most countries, include, the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, importing, offering for sale or distributing the patented invention without permission of the patentee. This set of exclusive rights is granted for a limited period of time, and in most cases the right is limited to 20 years.The exclusive rights granted to a patentee have business impact, some of which are listed below:
A patentee gets the liberty to enjoy monopoly over the patented invention for 20 years
A patentee can monetize his patented invention by selling or licensing out his rights, in addition to other ways of monetizing
Engineers and scientists can access a rich pool of patent information and improvise on existing technology
Competitors will have to create non-infringing products and processesThe business impact of patents can be used to enhance the competitiveness of a business. A wholesome, systematic and customized approach towards patents is required to use the power of patents to positively impact your business.4 fold approach for enhancing competitiveness
Build a patent fortress
Proactively safeguard your business interests
Respect others intellectual property
Intelligent approach to product and process developmentBuild a patent fortressOne of the approaches for improving competitiveness of a business is by having product differentiators. Product differentiators are brought about by developing products that are technologically superior, has newer/better features or addresses specific needs of customers. Sometimes, there might not be any changes made to the product, however, companies might differentiate themselves from competition by offering products at reduced prices. This might be possible by making changes to the processes used in producing the product. Such modifications made to the products/processes might be patent worthy. Hence, when a company feels that they have made some modification that might be patent worthy, it is important to contemplate the idea of having such improvements protected by a patent.It shall be noted that such improvements give added advantages to a business. If a company hasn’t taken any measure to protect the improvement made by them, then competitors might as well copy such improvements, thereby diluting the advantage gained by the business. Further, competitors might copy the products and introduce the same at lower prices, as they would not have invested in developing the product/process. By protecting the improvements made to the products or processes, businesses gain at least the following advantages:
Create an entry barrier for competitors
Maintain product or process differentiators
Protect products or processes from being copied by competitors
Enjoy monopoly over improvements for 20 years
Increase valuation of the companyProactively safeguard your business interestsThe previous approach dealt with protecting technological improvements made by a company. While, the previous approach dealt with building a patent fortress to safeguard ones business territory, it is equally important to monitor the patent fortress’ built by competitors.It is often seen that, in a bid to build a patent portfolio that is as strong as possible, companies tend to protect things that already exist and sometime try to protect improvements that are not novel and are obvious. If they do succeed in protecting such existing and obvious technology using patents, then they might stop others from using such technology, or they can at least stop others from using such technology till somebody proves that the patents were wrongly granted.It is important to take necessary actions to avoid being in a situation in which a company uses patents granted to an existing or obvious improvement to stop you from using such technology. This can be achieved by monitoring and opposing the patent applications filed in the technology that is of your interestOne can monitor patent applications filed by competitors and oppose grant of patent to such patent applications. On the other hand, one can also monitor patents that are getting granted in related technology fields, and opposes the patents even after the patent is granted. By taking such proactive steps, businesses gain at least the following advantages:
Ensure against obvious improvements being protected by competitors
Enhance the valuation of patents held by you in a technology field
Avoid being sued for infringing patents that shouldn’t have been granted in the first place
Easy access to freely use and adopt minor improvements in technologyRespect others intellectual propertyIn the previous two approaches, we dealt with building a patent fortress and ensuring that competitors do not strengthen their patent fortress using minuscule technological improvements. In the current approach we illustrate why it is important to respects others Intellectual Property rights.As highlighted in the introduction, patents give exclusive rights to the patentee to exclude others from making, using, selling, importing, offering for sale or distributing the patented invention without permission of the patentee. In other words, if you copy, intentionally or otherwise, an invention patented by others, then you will be infringing on their patent right. A patentee can sue you for violating his patent rights, and if the court finds you guilty, then the damages that you might end up paying could be significant. Hence, it is important to be aware of patent rights held by others while carrying out your business.A well proven approach to ensure that your products or processes don’t infringe on others patent rights is by carrying out a Freedom to Operate (FTO) study before introducing a product in a country. It is important to dig out the patents that exist in the field that you operate in and determine if your products or processes infringe on others patents. If found that the products/processes might infringe on others patent rights, then necessary steps have to be taken to avoid such infringement, and thereby avoid expensive law suits. By taking such precautions you will at least gain the following advantages:
Ensure against introducing infringing products to the market
Avoid expensive patent infringement suits
Ensure that brand name is not tarnished by such infringementIntelligent approach to product and process developmentRemember, no one got too far by reinventing the wheel, neither will you; hence, there is no point in reinventing the wheel. It is important to appreciate the fact that most of the problems that we might be trying to solve, might have been solved by somebody else in some part of the world. Therefore, it will be intelligent on your part to look at such solutions and improvise on them. Patent data is considered to be the richest source of scientific information, and using this information is an intelligent approach to product and process development.By harvesting information provided by patents, you can work on improving solutions provided by others. Hence, the solution provided by you might end up being much more superior and also different. Further, one reduces the possibility on developing something that has already been developed, hence, your investment in R&D yields better returns. Furthermore, one can bring down the cost of developing a product by simply copying a patented invention and introducing the same in a country where the invention has not been patented. Additionally, patent data can be used to analyze technology trends and plan your business accordingly.The ways in which patent data can be used by businesses is endless, and the advantages gained by using patent data are tremendously valuable. Some of the advantages of using this approach are:
Enhanced returns on investment in R&D
Development of products/processes that have improvised on existing technology
Reduced cost of development of product/process
Better business forecasting and planningI hope you find this article helpful in crafting a patent strategy that is aligned with your business objectives.