How to Identify Prior Art?

The objective of Prior Art is to find out if the invention presented is unique or not. Prior Art is evidence that your invention is already an idea that another inventor in some part of the world has considered and worked upon. It can be found out in many forms, from a video to a research paper, you could find evidence of your invention. The only caveat with prior art is that it could invalidate a patent only if it has been already available to the public before the effective filing date of the patent. 

 

Information that has been kept secret from the public, such as a trade secret, cannot be considered prior art. Prior art should be available to the public in some format or the other. In fact, there are many countries which require that such information be recorded in a fixed form. 

 

Importance of Prior Art searches:

 

  1. It helps you determine whether an invention is novel or not. 
  2. Doing a prior art search helps you develop a strong patent claim strategy before you file a patent application for your invention. 
  3. When done right, you can reduce your R&D costs significantly. 
  4. Helps you get updated with the latest technological trends.
  5. Puts you in a position where you can plan new products.
  6. You will be in a better position to explain your invention to a patent attorney after doing prior art search.
  7. Avoid submitting patent applications for inventions which have high chances of getting rejected. 
  8. Helps find the legal status of patent applications. 
  9. May help speed up your patent prosecution. 
  10. Find out newer markets for commercializing your invention 

 

When to invest in a Prior Art search?

 

Conducting prior art searches should be out of your purview if the exercise is not proportional to the value of the invention. If the patent application you are filing is only for branding purposes, and you do not have any intentions to prosecute, then you don’t have to invest in prior art search. 

 

On the other hand, if getting the patent approved means a lot to your company, economically and otherwise, then a prior art search is something that you should surely invest in. The decision to invest in a prior art search should entirely depend on your IP strategy and business goals. 

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Types of prior art searches:

Let us look at the different types of prior art searches, each of which have different objectives and are performed at different stages of the application process. 

 

Novelty search:

This type of prior art search is often conducted by patent attorneys, agents, or patent searchers before the inventor even files a patent application. Novelty search determines if the invention is novel even before the inventor gathers the resources necessary to obtain a patent. 

 

Validity search:

It is a type of prior art search which is done after a patent is issued. The objective of an invalidity search is to find prior art that the patent examiner might have missed out on. It is usually done by the party which has a financial stake in the patent so that they could determine the validity of the patent. 

 

Clearance search:

It searches the issued patents to see if the product or process of an invention violates someone else’s patent. Clearance search is usually limited to a particular country, a set of countries or a market. 

 

How to conduct an effective Prior Art search?

A prior art search involves poring through different databases to see if someone has already worked on an idea similar to yours. Here are the steps that you need to do for an effective prior art search. 

 

#1 Search for keywords used to describe your invention:

The first step towards doing an effective prior art search is to identify all combinations of keywords for describing your innovation. There are times when unique keywords might be used to describe an innovation. It might be difficult to find relevant patents at times as there could be jargons used in a specific industry or they might be translations from other languages to English. 

 

#2 Patent databases:

Even a standard search on Google is considered a good place to start from. Let us look at some of the other databases which will help you to see if there is prior art for your invention. 

 

  1. Search Google patents.
  2. Search the Espacenet EU patent and patent application database of the European patent office.
  3. Search the World Intellectual Property Organization database which is called PATENTSCOPE application database.
  4. Search the USPTO office database.
  5. Search the patent application database of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office
  6. Patent Lens– it has more than 225+ million scholarly works, 127+ million global patent records, and 370+ million patent sequences

 

#3 Go beyond patent databases:

Do remember that prior art is not only limited to existing patents or patent applications, but for everything that is publicly available in any format. That’s exactly why your search should not be just limited to patent databases. Here are the other places where you should continue your search:

 

  1. Google Scholar search for scholarly publications
  2. Non-patent literature like publications, journals, articles, etc.
  3. Search for products on sites like eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, etc.
  4. Product pages of competitors who are working in the same niche. 
  5. The Internet Archive Wayback Machine is also recognized as a valid source for finding prior art. 

 

#4 Save related documents:

When you are about to file your patent application, make sure you mention the most relevant prior art. There are chances that you might end up with a stronger patent application if the patent examiner has all the relevant references with them. Not only that, you are also ethically bound to report prior art if you find anything. Save the prior art related documents and keep one for yourself while handing them over along with your patent application.

#5 Stop searching:

The objective of prior art search is not to find out every single document that is available on this planet. But, it is to do a comprehensive search so that you don’t miss out on an invention that is already available. 

 

Even if a relevant prior art is there, it might not necessarily show up in most searches. For example, a patent document written in a foreign language might be impossible to access as you will not find the relevant keywords no matter what kind of combinations you use. Once you know that you have invested ample amount of time in it, you should call off the search. 

 

Things to keep in mind while doing prior art search:

 

  1. Many of the patent databases of different countries might not necessarily be published in English.
  2. When you want to find prior art for your invention, make sure you also look for prior art which is related to various aspects of the invention. 
  3. You will be infringing on a patent only when all the parts of the claim are present. 

 

Conclusion:

Thanks to the internet and the classification systems present in most IP offices across the world, doing prior art search by yourself is entirely possible. Performing prior art searches before filing your patent application is a crucial step towards protecting your patent. You will be able to find relevant patent and non-patent literature which can help you figure out if your invention is worth the hassle of patenting. 

Researchwire’s Prior Art Search services will help you find prior art, if there is any, and you can be assured of getting a comprehensive report at the end of the exercise. While you can do prior art search by yourself to an extent, it pays to put it in the hands of experts. It might also not be the best use of your time if you do not have previous experience in finding prior art, or the necessary skill set to do it effectively. 

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8 Ways to Monetize your Intellectual Property

Isn’t that something a lot of businesses are struggling with?

Here is how you can make money from your IP:

#1 Selling patent portfolio:

Doing this can also make you money. If you are looking for cash, selling your patent portfolio is one of the best options. You need to calculate the value of your patents before trying to sell it. Microsoft bought 800 patents from AOL for $1.1 billion in 2012.

#2 Co-development:

Get into a partnership with a company that might be interested in the creation of the IP. You need to discuss the scope of the partnership, sub-licensing and subcontracting rights, royalty rates, etc. It is great to distribute risks and use each other’s resources when you don’t have the required arsenal on your side.

#3 Licensing:

There are businesses that license their intellectual property assets in non-competing industries to retain their market advantage. Licensing agreements between competitors also spells goodness for everyone involved. The IP owner retains control and the licencor gets to use the IP by paying a royalty.

#4 Creating new products:

The most obvious solution to making your patent a cash cow is to create innovative products using them. Find out the opportunities that exist in your market & see if your patent can be used to make such products.

#5 In-licensing:

Licensing third-party patents to create commercial products is one way you can earn money. You can find patents that serve a different industry and apply them in your market.

#6 Spin-out:

In this, marginally used IP is moved to a different company. Sometimes new companies are established just to use the IP.  Why?  A new company might be able to use the IP effectively. It may also lead to new investments.

#7 Securitization:

IP assets like trademark, patent, etc. have always commanded the respect of investors. Like any form of property, IP assets can be used as collaterals.

#8 Sale-Leaseback:

If you are looking for cash and are planning to sell your IP, although you still want to use it, then get into a sale-leaseback arrangement.

With all that said, you need to have a broad strategy with short and long-term goals that will give you a sense of direction. Connect with us to discuss options for monetizing or registering your intellectual property.

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6 Legal mistakes that start-ups usually do

When you are starting a company, you need to be extremely cautious about legal mistakes that you might end up doing unintentionally.

The following are some of the most common legal mistakes that start-ups make:

Mistake #1: Not taking the help of professionals. You might scrimp on a few thousand dollars by using a contract available online. This can spell death for your business depending on which part of the contract you messed up.

You need to use agreements for contractors, employees, suppliers, etc., with the help of professionals.

Mistake #2: Starting your project when employed at another place. A lot of companies have agreements which say that all the products developed during the employee’s time in the company belongs to them.

Imagine working on a project so close to your heart only to hear this soul crushing news!

You need to read your employment agreement and disclose your personal projects so that you can gain full ownership.

Mistake #3: Co-founders split up when you least expect it. So when they leave the company, aren’t they taking away the shared IP with them too?

Not failing to incorporate can bite you in the back. Incorporate your business so that you don’t risk your personal assets. Choose the correct business entity as each of them have different implications.

Sign agreements with your employees, contractors or freelancers you work with. Clearly lay out their responsibilities, rights, obligations, etc.

Mistake #4: Not having a written record of the agreement where each of the parties sign it with full consent. Not only does an agreement ensure that everyone is on the same page, but it also helps you save from being part of a long-drawn legal battle.

Mistake #5: Not protecting your intellectual property.

If you have developed a unique product, technology, or service, you need to consider the appropriate steps to protect the intellectual property you have developed.

Here is how you can protect intellectual property:

  1. File for patent, trademark or copyright. Secure that for your company.
  2. Sign Non-Disclosure Agreements. It restricts the use & disclosure of protected information. NDAs can be enforced legally if someone breaches it, accidentally or otherwise.
  3. Invention Disclosure Records- It’s used to document company-related inventions.
  4. Conduct security audits on a regular basis .
  5. Make your employees understand what is sensitive information & how to protect it.
  6. Use Data Loss Prevention (DLP) tools like Teramind, SecureTrust, Digital Guardian Endpoint, etc.
  7. Hire the services of an IP firm if you have strong reasons to believe that you have to guard IP assets through patents.

Mistake #6: Not getting the name of your start-up cleared before launching it.

Launching your start-up is an exciting time for the founders. However, you must be cautious about each of the steps that you take so you don’t regret later.

#Conclusion: Making these mistakes can put your company at risk

Start-ups have a lot to think about as they begin. Legal issues are often low on the list of priorities, but a little bit of legal foresight can help prevent costly problems down the road. Invest in building your company on the right legal and financial foundation by connecting with Researchwire.

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IP Best Practices in the time of Covid-19

IP Best Practices in the time of Covid-19

 2.8 million. 

That’s the number of patent applications that were filed at the IP5 offices (IP5 is the name given to a forum of the five largest IP offices in the world) in 2020. Also, 1.3 million patents were granted by the IP5 offices in the same year. The year 2020 has been unprecedented because of a strain of virus called Covid-19 that has wreaked havoc across the world. 

The world of IP has faced major setbacks during these turbulent times. Covid-19 has affected almost every industry that you can possibly think of, and businesses need to have a trick or two up its sleeve to make things right, or at least get back to normal. Even having to operate majorly in an online-only tech-based environment has put pressure in the existing systems, and on the people running it. It has been more than a year since the term Coronavirus has become a mainstay in our lives, but the repercussions from it are far from over. Also, the virus is still there. 

 

Below are some of the best IP practices that businesses can follow during Covid:

 

#1 Review your IP inventory:

Make a note of all your patent, trademark, copyright registrations, pending applications, and any renewals and deadlines. Write down all the confidential information that gives your company a competitive advantage. 

Here is what you need to do:

  1. Write in detail about the confidential information in a separate file
  2. Name the stakeholders who have access to it and how they can access it.
  3. List out the measures that you have taken to keep the information confidential.
  4. Ensure that you are in a position to meet any renewals or deadlines
  5. Do check for any royalty agreements and see if the payments are being made on time. 

Once you do all the above, you will know where and how your assets are parked. It will allow you to take immediate actions if necessary. 

 

#2 Be up to date with the happenings in the world:

The pandemic has affected the day-to-day operations of patent offices across the world. While some of them are in a complete state of lockdown, others have adopted a hybrid structure with respect to filings, physical hearings, procedural compliances, and so on. 

Businesses that are looking to file their trademark or patent application internationally should consult with their IP firm to get apprised of the various rules that are being followed this time. World Trademark Review that constantly updates the measures taken by IP offices during this time. 

 

#3 Evaluate your product strategy:

There is no doubt that the pandemic would have caused a seismic change in how consumers behave. Everything from their buying process to even reviewing and searching patterns will change. Find out the changes in user behavior with the help of user surveys, focus group discussions, face-to-face interviews, 3rd party agencies, and so on. 

Analyze the results to find out which are the products in demand. Build these products with the end consumer in mind. Make sure that the products are created with innovation and diligence at its core so that even the consumers are able to emotionally connect with it. 

 

#4 Leverage international filing protocols:

Agreements such as the Madrid Protocol and the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) have made it possible to streamline IP filing and search procedures, thanks to making the information available in a centralized database. Thanks to the Patent Cooperation Treaty, major expenses can be deferred for international filings, not to mention the time that is saved in going after this. 

 

#5 Keep strategically investing in IP:

The new normal doesn’t mean that one should go entirely on the defensive and not engage in innovation at all. In fact, innovation is at the core of adapting to the new normal. Businesses should make use of technologies like automation, machine learning, internet of things, etc. to reduce the Go-To-Market time and monetize the product. It is also wise to assess your existing protocols to look for IP that has untapped potential. 

 

Despite the challenges that all of us are witnessing at this moment, one can safely assume that there will always be opportunities. If you don’t look out for them actively, it will not be possible to seize them. The opportunities will not only be limited to finding new areas to innovate, it could also be about acquiring IP from a competing firm that is looking to pivot or monetize their portfolios or finding a means to improve the strength of your present portfolio. If you keep looking hard enough, you will eventually stumble upon something worth the pursuit. 

 

#6 Manage your legal spending wisely:

Having good counsel or an IP firm to help you out immensely, especially during these troubled times, is a wise strategy to indulge in. You can let go of assets that are not important to the company anymore. 

By choosing to let go of IP assets that are no longer valuable, you will enjoy the following:

  1. Won’t have to spend time in extending the validity of the patent.
  2. Avoid paying maintenance costs.
  3. Avoid paying fines for forgetting to comply with regulations.

Do not hesitate to hire an IP firm assuming that it would increase your costs, they will be able to offer you the best advice that will help you capitalize on your existing IP while minimizing your risk. The IP firm might even find ways to increase your revenue through the IP assets you have. 

 

#7 File single-class trademark applications:

Businesses should make it a point to register their brands or marks which are not too descriptive in nature around the world, especially in areas where you plan to expand. You can file single class applications as it will reduce the filing and registration maintenance fees. When there are multiple classes in your application, the higher is the risk of an opposition. On top of that, single class applications are easier and faster to register, and less expensive. 

 

#8 Protect your copyright/design:

The reason why we would like to specifically insist on protecting your copyright and design is because most businesses view it as an extra expenditure. The truth is that these forms of IP can be used to protect innovation. Make sure that the agreements and compliances are in order and updated. 

 

#9 Be investor ready:

Even if you are not expecting a windfall in terms of investors knocking on your doors, you need to be prepared for such a situation. Businesses should proactively take steps to protect and safeguard their IP. It offers an assurance to the prospective investor that you have lucrative IP assets.

 

Wrapping it up:

During these uncertain times, businesses should strategically look at all their options. There is no room for any uncertainty or not having a plan in place. They should protect their IP at all costs by filing and enforcing their IP rights, plan effectively, use the right legal tools, hire an experienced IP firm, and so on. 

The immediate future will bring us ample opportunities. Businesses which have a deep understanding of its IP assets and follow the best practices for protecting and managing its assets will be able to rise to the challenges posed by this pandemic and come out a winner. 

When you have a strong IP firm providing you sound advice, you will be in a good position to tackle this Black Swan called Covid-19. By taking their advice, you can effectively balance your IP portfolio and wade through this uncertainty with little to zero troubles to your brand or IP. 

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