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Prior art searching: is the invention ‘novel’?

In order to obtain a patent, an innovation has to fulfil a number of conditions of patentability, as examined by national and regional patent offices. First among these conditions is the need for the invention to be new (or novel); in general terms this means that it must not be publicly known, either in use or published, anywhere in the world. Prior art searching and other forms of patent clearance searching helps companies to identify those disclosures and competing inventions that are already in the public domain.

Prior art searching: establishing the state of the art

Prior art searching is the process of pro-actively searching existing patents and disclosures to determine the state of the art relating to an innovation. It determines, for example, whether there are identical or similar patents, or any existing prior art that may compromise an invention’s patentability. This enables companies to decide whether an invention is patentable.

Prior art searching: creating stronger patent applications

Prior art searching also enables companies to draft patent applications more clearly and strategically by taking the existing state of the art into account. This helps to maximise their chances of being granted a (strong and valid) patent. Commonly, findings from prior art searching also provide valuable insight into potential threats to a new invention or innovation (e.g. from infringement actions), and can help to determine or refine research activities in order to ensure strong patent protection.

Prior art searching and other forms of clearance search are not mandatory prior to drafting a patent application; however, it is in the interest of the applicant to take steps to verify that the innovation is indeed ‘novel’ before filing a patent application to protect it. If the invention does not fulfil requirements for patentability, the patent office may reject the patent application and the fees paid will be lost.

Prior art searching: identifying the correct sources

Novagraaf’s prior art searching service helps to provide clients with insight into the current state of the art, so that they can tailor their filing strategies accordingly. Depending on the field of research and/or markets of interest, this will include searches of previously published patent applications, relevant prior art databases, and publications in trade or scientific journals. Where appropriate, we also use high-quality external service providers.

Prior art searching: further information

You can find out more about patents and the processes for obtaining, enforcing and exploiting patent rights in overseas markets, here. For information on Novagraaf’s patent services, including patent drafting, EP/PCT filing, portfolio management and litigation support, click here for our services overview page. Alternatively, contact our customer support team, using the contact form at the top right of this page.