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Prior Art Searches


  1. Understanding the claims/novelty of the invention

  2. Keyword based search (broad and narrow technical terms) - Combine the keywords in a logical fashion to form search queries.

  3. Classification based search (such as IPC, CPC, US, and ECLA)

  4. Assignee and Inventor based search (logically relevant keywords, inventors or classes are combined to create a complex query to approach more relevant results)

  5. Patent citation analysis (analysis of forward and backward patent and non-patent citations of the most relevant patents identified in the above steps)

  6. Non-patent literature (NPL) search


How to Conduct a Prior Art Search or Different Steps in a Prior Art Search

Steps for Prior Art Search

What All Does NPL Include

Non-Patent Literature

Prior Art Search FAQs

What is prior art?

A prior art is an evidence proving that the inventions was known earlier. In simple words, prior art is an information used by the patent examiner to check the novelty of the patent or invention. Prior art may include published disclosures, public demonstrations / use, disclosed to public by other means, and oral descriptions, A patent application can be rejected if the information regarding the invention or something similar is already available. The norms of prior art vary from nation to nation. For example, the oral disclosure can be the criteria for prior arts in some nations (European Patent Office) but not in other.

What are the sources of prior art?

The prior art can be made on many elements including patents, published patent applications, and non-patent literature. Non-Patent literature may include books, evidence of sale or usage, videos, technical standards, white papers, journals, physical forms and online resources.

I have disclosed my invention in a conference; can the corresponding publication stop me from getting a patent?

The prior art constitution varies among various jurisdictions. For example, the US patent law accepts "your disclosure" if it has been made within a year prior to the patent filing date.

But European patent laws are somehow extreme on that as they don't allow such a grace period to the applicant. It's better you contact your country's copyright and patent authority.

What are the requirements for patentability?

Your patent application goes through the parameters like….

  • Novelty:

    It should not be available in any form before your patent filing date. Although, US patent law grants you a grace year before filing a patent application.

  • Useful:

    The patent law requires your invention to be useful and industrially applicable.

  • Non-obviousness Requirement:

    Your invention must be unique and should not be the modification of any object. It must not look similar to the prior arts.

Do I need to conduct a patentability search before filing a patent?

Since patent filing is an expensive process, make sure your invention is original by doing patentability search. A patent search is useful to know if your invention already exists or is similar to any other invention which already exists. You can explore patent databases and the available resources like books or publications for the same.

What are the steps to conduct a prior art search?

Prior art generally includes:

  • Understanding the Concept:

    Read invention disclosure and develop understanding of the invention concept. After understanding the invention thoroughly, key features of the invention are identified based on the novel aspect of the invention.

  • Keywords Selection:

    This step includes the selection of the keywords included in a patent application or disclosure of the invention. It is a general trend to include the synonyms of the selected keywords.

  • Keyword based Search:

    On the basis of those keywords, different key strings with variable scope (broad to narrow) are formed in different search fields on patent databases with a global coverage using Orbit, PatBase, Thomson Innovation, Google Patents, Espacenet, PAJ, KIPRIS etc. Further, key strings formed from the selected keywords are used to search on non-patent databases such as Google, IEEE, ACM, Pubmed, etc.

  • Classification based Search:

    This step includes the selection of relevant classifications (IPC, US, CPC, etc) provided by inventor/examiner in patent application. Classification can also be found in relevant patents shortlisted in Keyword based search. On the basis of those classes, patent examiners search through the public databases (like Google Patents, Espacenet, etc) and paid databases (Orbit, Thomson Innovations, etc) to find the similar patents.

  • Assignee Based Search:

    Assignees of the relevant patents are identified and a search with various scope (combination with keywords, classes etc.) is conducted to identify relevant patents associated with these assignees.

  • Inventor Based Search:

    Inventors of the relevant patents are identified and a search with various scope (combination with keywords, classes etc.) is conducted to identify relevant patents associated with these inventors.

  • Analysis:

    All the identified relevant patent and non-patent citations are analyzed. If the novel aspect of the invention is present or can be inferred from the identified citations then it is considered as a prior art.

What happens if there is prior art of your invention?

It simply means your patent application can be rejected on the ground of not being unique and already existed. If you still want to patent your invention, then you may change the claims or improve/modify your invention.

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