Types of Patent Searches

patent_searchA patent is a legal document which describes the unique details and pointers of an invention. It also gives one or more person the right to protect the invention to prevent any misuse or exploitation of the innovation. Thus a patent research is essential to any company or organization. There are various types of patent searches, each with its own style and method of search process. The differences are usually based on scope and the respective publication dates. Let's take a look at some of the search types that are prevalent in the industry.

Patentability Search

This kind of search is usually carried out when determining whether the innovation research or invention has patentable subject matter. In addition to this, it should have utility and some potential return on investment. This kind of search also encompasses any findings on prior art references that might be important to the technology research made by the person or company who is submitting the document. These references include a host of things like publisher's patent applications, issued patents, non-patent literature and journals. A patentability search is sometimes also called novelty search.

Freedom to Operate

This process is also termed as clearance, right to use or infringement search. This search rightly identifies any enforceable patents that may be a hindrance to recognizing the document as a patent and also its subsequent commercialization. This search is also performed to discover any pending patent applications that might be issued as patents later. The patent grants in USA exist usually for a term which begins on the date on which the patent was issued and 20 years on, till the date as to when the application was filed. Soon after the patent term expires, the patent owner no longer has the ability to enforce any rights. Hence, a clearance search can be limited to those patents documents which are already enforceable or may be enforceable when a particular product or service is duly commercialized. Another important point is that to make the patent remain completely enforceable throughout the full term of 20 years; the issued patent has to have the appropriate maintenance fees paid at regular intervals. If any problems arise one can handle it in a number of ways. This includes getting a license from the patent owner or procuring an opinion of non infringement from a patent attorney.


This process is also called enforcement readiness or invalidity. This search is very similar to the patentability search. However under this, the assessment is made on the patent instead of on the invention or the technology research or the innovation research that is duly carried out. This type of search is usually carried out when a particular patent owner wants to evaluate the strength of the patent that he wants to enforce. It is also initiated when an infringer wants to assess the validity of the patent he or she has been accused of tampering with.

State of the Art

A state of the art search is carried out to determine and find out any similar patents or potential competitors within a given technological field. This kind of search is also called a collection search and includes patent documents and along with that non patent literature.


This kind of search is carried out to gather information about related patents property that is owned by an entity. These searches are usually executed in a particular selected technology research area. Sometimes these searches are also requested by entities that own a host of patents and are therefore, unaware of the extent or scope of their portfolio

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