Five questions you have to answer before you conduct an effective patent search


If you work in an industry that involves making and selling products, you are going to need to do patent searches.  This shouldn’t surprise you.  Regardless of what technology your company works in, you will want to protect your investments in research and development, and you will want to avoid infringing on your competitor’s rights.  As long as you need to do it, you should know how to do it well.  Drawn from the experience of a professional patent searcher, you can maximize your chances of an effective patent search by answering five questions before you begin:

1.      Why are you searching?
The type of search informs the strategy and content type used to conduct the search.
2.      What is the topic of your search?
No search is as simple as typing in a description of your product or your invention and hitting the search button. Every idea, invention and/or product is made up of parts.  An effective patent searcher will need to identify and research all those parts.
3.      Who is going to review the results?
A patent search does no good at all if nobody looks at the results.  The key here is to make sure the right information gets to the right person. 
4.      How are they going to review the results?
What do the reviewers need to know from the results in order to make their decision?
Do they prefer Excel spreadsheets, or do they need to see the original full-text PDF for each document?  The right tool can help you by customizing lists of results and search reports in a wide variety of ways. 
5.      How much time do you have?
Nearly everything else about your patent search (e.g., how comprehensive does it need to be, how many people need to look at the results, how many places need to be searched) will rely on the answer to this question.  In addition to your deadline, you should also consider how much time the search itself will take. 

Answering these five questions will see you well on the road to effective and efficient patent searching.

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