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In 2012 Member States and the European Parliament agreed on the "patent package" - a legislative initiative consisting of two...

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Searching, Watching and Freedom to Operate

If you need to do some preliminary searching to give a first indication as to whether an invention is new, there are a number of useful public databases that can be searched (e.g. by keyword), and we encourage you to do this.

Prior Art Searching

Links to some of the more popular databases are set out at the foot of this page. We can then review your search strategy and results and these will help us focus our discussion with you over what is considered new and inventive. We can then advise whether further searching is worthwhile or whether to proceed with a patent application and rely on the results of subsequent searches conducted by the UK, German, European or other Patent Office.

Name Searching

Patent databases can also be searched by name, which is useful if you think a particular company or individual may have published a patent application. But beware. Patent searching is an art in itself. If you do not find what you expect, do not assume it is not there.

We have access to proprietary databases and we have experienced staff familiar with the intricacies of patent searching. If you need certainty as to whether a particular patent application has been filed, we can assist.

Clearance Searches

If you need a "freedom-of-action" search (a clearance search) to clear the way in advance of the launch of a new product, this is not a do-it-yourself task. A rigorous clearance search involves reviewing the proposed product, identifying inventive concepts (often more than one) and conducting searches (typically using the International Patent Classification rather than keywords) through different patent office collections (often not in English) over a 20 year period (this being the lifetime of a patent). We use trained technical staff familiar with the technology in question and/or engage specialist technical searchers and review the results. We can draw up and cost a search strategy to suit your budget and your comfort level of risk.

Publicly-Available Patent Databases
European Patent Office - ESPACENET
United States Patent and Trademark Office
Patent Abstracts of Japan

"Watching" is the term we use for keeping a regular, normally quarterly, watch for some anticipated or feared event.

Here are some examples of events for which we provide watching services:

  • publication of patent applications of a known competitor
  • regular monitoring of an examination file
  • grant of an application already published

​Clients often request these services with a view to avoiding infringement, filing opposition or applying for revocation when a patent is granted. Occasionally we will file third-party observations on behalf of a client as an inexpensive way of influencing examination of a patent application. We can set up automated regular watches through our specialist databases.