Patents as a Technology and Marketing Resource

Monday, October 16, 2017

Several types of patent searches are known for identifying patents and published patent applications of potential interest. One type of search, often called a novelty search, is employed to identify prior issued patents and published patent applications relating to a particular concept or idea in an effort to assess patentability of the concept. Another type of search, often known as an infringement or freedom to operate search, is conducted in an effort to identify patents the claims of which may present infringement questions with respect to an intended product.

Patents and published applications are sometimes overlooked as a general technology resource for purposes of product development and market research. The quest for such patents and published applications, sometimes known as a state-of-the-art search, serves the purpose of gaining a general knowledge of the patent landscape in respect to a particular area or field of technology rather than just a specific concept. Such a search can be conducted for the subject matter of interest and also for names of known inventors and owners of relevant technology. Some patents often contain a background section that traces the patent history of prior related technology, which can reveal additional information of potential relevance.

Patents and published applications are readily accessible via the website of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and via the websites of other countries or jurisdictions, such as the European Patent Office (EPO). Patent information is also available via commercial sites, such as Google Patents.

Patents and published applications identified from such searching activity can assist in defining:

  • what companies are in the field 
  • what technologies may be in use
  • the product space of interest
  • areas of patent concentration
  • competing technologies
  • opportunities for product differentiation 
  • areas for further market and product investigation
  • technologies that present infringement risks

Information collected from such patent investigations can prove to be of value in determining a product and market development path, whether a product concept is distinguishable from what is known and possibly patentable, and what the competitive picture may be. Such investigations may also illuminate the need for more specific patent searching to assess risks of infringement of a particular product implementation.

The scope of this type of patent investigation can vary to suit particular purposes and budget. For example, the investigation may be limited in geographic scope to cover only the United States or other countries of interest, and may vary in technological scope to suit specific circumstances. The investigation may also be conducted in stages depending on results from a prior stage, and may extend to non-patent information such as can be obtained on the web and other sources.

It is therefore useful to remember that product development and market research projects can often benefit from the information and knowledge gained by the identification and review of relevant data.

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