There are many different forms of patent search, and not all of them end with a patent application. One of the most common patent searches that we do here at Global Patent Solutions is a Freedom to Operate (FTO) search, also known as an infringement search, right-to-use search, or clearance search.
What Is a Freedom to Operate Search?
The main goal of an FTO search is to see whether your planned business operations and development will infringe upon already-existing patents. An FTO search enables a patent lawyer to give an informed opinion regarding a business’ legal exposure and risk so that they can move forward with less worry about being sued for infringement.
Most of all, it’s important to know that an FTO search looks for completely different criteria than a patentability search; it’s not simply a more thorough version of the same thing. They’re actually seeking different information.
When You Might Need a Freedom to Operate Search
The time to get an FTO search is within the name: you are expanding operations, and you want to make sure you have freedom to do so. Most often, FTO searches are conducted during the following stages:
- A business is launching a new product, and wants to know if its new rollout will incite legal backlash.
- A business is venturing into a new or foreign market, and a search is required to determine what kinds of regulations and hurdles may be encountered.
- Two or more businesses are investigating a partnership or merger. An FTO search can help determine the respective IP footprint of each party, enabling leaders to better negotiate and find a mutually beneficial agreement.
Deciding Whether an FTO Search Is Worthwhile
As mentioned above, a Freedom to Operate search can be much more labor-intensive, and seeks to protect against more downside risk, than some other forms of patent search. As such, it is generally more expensive than a novelty search. An FTO search can help you better position your business proceedings and guard you from future fines and litigation that could stymie your expansion. However, it may not be worthwhile for every business move, especially if profitability is unknown.
Even a thorough Freedom to Operate search done by a reputable institution won’t be able to give you a 100% guarantee that you won’t encounter legal difficulties. However, conducting an FTO search can count as due diligence that may protect you from hefty fines in the event of an infringement lawsuit.
Are you embarking on a new chapter in your business’ development? Get the information you need to make decisions that matter. Contact us to learn more about our premium services and extensive background in Freedom to Operate searches.