Ensure freedom to operate for a new invention

Derwent research guides

Before launching a product into the market, you need to perform a clearance search to ensure you are not infringing a competitors’ patent.  Consider these steps in Derwent Innovation when conducting a Freedom to Operate analysis.

Distill product features into key concepts and terms

  1. Generate a list of keywords using Smart Search
    • Enter top keywords of product features


  • Enter block of text from a technical summary, inventor statement, or draft claim language
  1. Review results for any unknown synonyms that might be useful for a fielded search
  2. Use extracted keywords for a traditional fielded search with appropriate Boolean operators

Develop a concentrated fielded search query

  1. Select desired fields from the Fielded Search page to populate with keywords
  2. Focus on keywords and phrases with product feature limitations in claim language.
  3. Broaden search with Wildcard/Truncation Operators such as ? or *
  4. Further expand phrases using Proximity Operators (SAME, NEAR, ADJ,OR)


Expert searchers can use advanced Searchable Characters like {d} for digit and {v} for vowel for additional precision claim searching.

Use classification codes to supplement keywords

Classification codes broaden your search to include relevant patents which might not contain your initial key terms:

  1. Click the plus sign to add a new field and select IPC-Any or CPC-Any; use OR between the Claims field and the classification search field(s)
  2. Type the classification code or click Lookup    to search for codes using keywords or classification codes
  3. Click Apply to populate codes from the Lookup tool.


Use the Preview / Edit Query box to add extra parenthesis ( ) around any fields to be searched in the disjunctive with the OR operator.  Click Check Syntax to confirm correct parentheses balancing and then click Search.

Apply jurisdictional limitations where FTO is needed

Limit your results to countries where you plan on making/selling the product before or after running the search.

  • Before Search: Change Collections
  1. Click Change Collections to choose regions of interest for each patent document type (applications, grants, and utility models).
  2. Expand to specific countries with the arrows next to each region.


Consider including PCT Applications (Country Code WO) to retrieve results that might enter the National Phase in relevant jurisdictions.

After Search: Apply Country Code Filters

  1. Click on the Filters button above the result list
  2. Select Country Code filter type
  3. Scroll or Search for relevant countries
  4. Check boxes for all countries of interest
  5. Click Apply Filters


You can also Subsearch above the results and enter the relevant country codes, separated by the OR operator.  

Focus on patents that may still be in force

Narrow to active patents by the Dead/Alive filters and further narrow by Grants/Apps or estimated remaining life.

  1. Click on the Filters button above the result list
  2. Grants/Apps focuses your results on granted patents
  3. Use Dead/Alive to focus on patents currently in force (Alive) or patents without information for accurate predictions (Indeterminate)


You may want to monitor pending applications with  Watch Records to be notified when the granted patent publishes and review the scope of claims allowed. See the Alert section further down in the workflow.

Customize your result list columns for faster review

  1. Click on Manage Columns above the result list to choose fields of interest.
  2. Use the arrows or drag and drop the fields to change the column order from left to right.

Sorting Tip:

Consider displaying the Estimated Remaining Life in your result list to sort and browse results based on the enforceable patent life of the results. To sort by both Dead/Alive and Remaining Life, click Advanced Sort above the result list.

Review result list and optionally narrow search

  1. Carousel through the drawings in the result list by clicking on the arrows over each image.
  2. Review the enhanced DWPI Title to better determine relevancy of results
  3. If other keywords or search parameters are needed, supplement the query by clicking Show Search at the top of the screen.
  4. Make any changes and click Search

Review individual records for infringement risk

Click the hyperlinked publication number for the first record in your results list to open the record view to see full details about the patent. Key Summary information helps you quickly identify records for review:

  1. Key Summary Data provides basic information about the patent and predictive data about the patent’s status (Dead or Alive), estimated expiration, and remaining life
  2. DWPI Title highlights the content and novelty of the invention in concise, descriptive, English-language text; use this information to quickly ascertain the relevance of the patent to your invention
  3. Click Claims to jump to full details about the inventions claimed in each patent
  4. Use the Highlighting tab to easily find key terms in the claims (e.g., specific aspects of your invention); you may need to enable this tab in your Preferences

Review images and assess the legal status of problematic patents.

  1. After reviewing keywords to determine infringement risk, toggle over to the Images tab to conduct a comparison of your product features to the patent record.
  2. Zoom in on the image and view other images using the scroll bar at the bottom.
  3. Should the record be high risk for your FTO search, further evaluate its viability and enforceable life. The View Factors link provides details about the legal status events that predict the expiration date
  4. The Legal Status link provides one-click access to full details about all legal status events on the patent, which helps validate the patent status and expiration date

Export data to perform offline, in-depth analysis

Derwent Innovation lets you export data in numerous formats, including Excel, to perform automated analysis offline that you can share with colleagues or clients.

  1. Click Export on your result set and select Excel as the export format
  2. Move fields to support your analysis from the Available Fields list to the Export Field list with the arrow
  3. Claim information and counts help you evaluate similarity to your invention and Relevancy gives you a keyword alignment score
  4. Bibliographic legal status information, including dead/alive status and expiration date, helps you determine which patents are enforceable
  5. Links to the drawing overview and original PDFs/images help evaluate patent relevance


Derwent Innovation provides the best possible data about the patent, including highly accurate predictions about patent status and expiration dates. However, you should always refer to the patent issuing authority for the most recent, complete legal status data.

Alerting and Monitoring for future risks

Receive notifications when new patents that match your search are published

Alerts automatically rerun your query at set intervals and notify you when your search finds new results so you can keep up-to-date with new published patents that may affect your freedom to operate.

  1. After running a search, click Set Alert below the results
  2. Enter a Name for the alert and click Run Options.
  3. Select the Frequency for how often you want to receive alerts (e.g., weekly)
  4. Select Save results for only the latest results to a work file or optionally accumulate all results
  5. Click Delivery & Content Options to choose the format and contents of your notifications, then click Save Your alert will run at the specified frequency and send notifications when it finds new, matching records.


You can select Excel for your Alert delivery format which allows you to review key data and transmit to colleagues easily for commentary.

Finding pending applications for Watch notifications

Pending applications provide a warning of future patents where your invention may infringe. You can easily update your original search to find those patent applications.

  1. Collapse results by Application Number using the radio button at the top of the result list page
  2. Check the top checkbox above choosing parents only.
  3. Click the Save Records button at the bottom of the page and name the work file where the records will be stored.
  4. Access the Work File clicking on Saved Work in the top right corner of the screen and click on the name of the Work File.
  5. Apply Filters for Apps under Grants/Apps and Alive and Indeterminate for Dead/Alive to view pending only applications which are likely alive.

Watch patent applications that pose a high risk

Analyze the patent applications for potential infringement risks with the same methods used to analyze granted patents. If you find a potential risk, you can receive notifications about further developments to the patent.

  1. Click the Watch Record link in individual records or at the bottom of the result list
  2. Select New Publication Stages to receive notifications when the application enters a new stage
  3. For WIPO patents, also select INPADOC and DWPI Family Changes to receive notifications if the applicant files an application in other countries of interest

Click Save; you will receive notifications when any of the selected events affect the patent application


You may want to Watch high risk granted patents for DWPI or INPADOC family changes to be notified of new members which publish in other jurisdictions of interest.