Pre-filing novelty or prior art search
A search, typically called a novelty search or prior art search can be carried out before a patent application is filed. This search aims to find documents that disclose at least some aspects of the invention, thereby calling into question its novelty or inventiveness.
The results of the search will typically be retuned within about 10 days, although they can be obtained on a more urgent basis if necessary.
A novelty search can be useful to determine whether the major aspects of an invention have been previously disclosed, thereby narrowing the scope of protection possible. A review of the results of the novelty search can, therefore, aid in drafting the patent application or, alternatively, may indicate that it is not commercially sensible to apply for patent protection.
A validity search can be carried out to try and uncover documents that call into question the novelty and/or inventiveness of an invention covered by a granted patent.
The validity search tries to find documents published before the priority date of the patent that disclose all or part of the subject matter of at least the broadest claim of the patent. These documents may then be used to attack the validity of the patent, either during European Opposition proceedings, or during revocation proceedings of a UK patent, for example.
Infringement or Clearance Search
In some commercial situations it may be beneficial to carry out a clearance search to try and ascertain whether a new product or manufacturing process is likely to be found to infringe any current patents.
The clearance search aims to uncover any patents that are currently in force in a particular territory of interest that include claims having a scope within which the product or process may fall.
If a patent is located which may indicate an infringement risk then, depending on the commercial situation, it may be possible to design around the scope of the subject matter of the patent, or it may be necessary to approach the patent proprietor to obtain a licence.