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Patent Clearance Searches Provide Guidance, Not Guarantees

The 21st-century business environment is evolving rapidly. Innovations occur daily, and that means that businesses frequently find themselves in situations where they are infringing another’s patents, or that their patents are infringed. An effective clearance search can help companies avoid the problem of violating another’s patent, and at the same time, protect their patents from misuse.

Conduct a Patent Search Before Investing Time and Resources

A clearance search is the first step any business should take before moving forward on any project. It will help you ascertain whether your idea is as unique as you think. There are many million patents pending in the United States alone, and potentially thousands of these are related to the product/service you want to patent. Naturally, you don’t want to invest time and resources into a product that is already in someone else’s pipeline. When searching, it is vital that your patent consultant reviews both domestic and international patents pending. This can prolong the search, but it is worth the effort.

Risk Reduction vs. Risk-Free

There are multiple variables at play, and there is no way to guarantee with 100% certainty that a patent search won’t miss a pending patent in the United States or abroad. There are numerous reasons for this, but one of the most common is that US patent pending applications aren’t published for a full 18 months after they are submitted. A lot can happen in that time, and it isn’t uncommon for businesses to submit similar applications at roughly the same time. Thus, your clearance search won’t give you a guarantee that you are free and clear; it will assure you that you are free to move forward with a high degree of certainty. It reduces your risk exposure, but it does not eliminate it.

Taking Action

The clearance process can take a week. Or, it could take up to a few months. It depends on the extent of the search. If a patent is discovered, that doesn’t mean your idea is dead in the water. At this point, you can perform a patent invalidity search. This makes it possible for you to alter your design so that you won’t infringe on the prior art of others.

Keep in mind that your clearance search will only uncover pending and in-force patents. It is not the same as a freedom to operate search, which includes an examination of expired patents. This is an additional search, and a wise one to pursue if the product/service in question is an evolution of a previous idea.

Conclude the Search With a Freedom to Operate Opinion

A freedom to operate opinion is essentially a thorough analysis of in force, pending, and expired patents. It analyzes the merits of your patent and identifies alterations that your company can integrate into the product/service design to enhance its uniqueness, and thus further reduce the risk of a patent infringement claim. This analysis takes time, but it can be well worth the investment, as it can help protect you from litigation in the future.

Contact Global Patent Solutions at (877) 236-8105 to learn more about the steps that go into a thorough clearance search. Our team will help you execute the search so that your company can move forward with production.