Often – the first step to get a patent
Preliminary Patentability Search
Because of the high cost of patent lawyers fees, a limited patent search is the recommended first step in accessing whether or not to seek patent protection on an invention. A patent search by an attorney should include a complete consultation and a formal legal opinion. A more abbreviated search can often be had for less without a written opinion of detailed consultations. The costs of a more extensive search is high and is not normally undertaken when the financial exposure is that of typical patent application costs.
What a search reveals
If the search reveals that the invention is not patentable, then the cost of filing an application and paying the lawyer̓s charges will be saved. The consequences of a patent search that reveals the invention vary. For instance, when an invention is disclosed in an expired patent or in any prior publication, anyone can practice the invention without concern for the patent laws, and no one can thereafter patent the invention.
Therefore, one advantage of a prior art patent search is that it may reveal good and freely usable ideas. These ideas alone could be worth several times the price of the search.
On the other hand, when the invention is disclosed in an unexpired patent, its owner has exclusive rights to the invention until it expires. Meanwhile, no other person can legally use the claimed invention without permission from the patent owner. If the search reveals that the invention may be patentable, the references located in the search can be used to provide useful background information and indicate the possible scope of potential patent claims.
The inventor will probably desire to pursue patent claims if the invention is a significant improvement over the prior art disclosed in patents and other public sources of information. The inventor has the choice to seek a patent, practice the invention without seeking a patent, or attempt to sell his rights to the invention. If the first option of obtaining a patent is pursued, the inventor will be able to prevent others from using the claimed invention for a number of years, thus gaining a potentially profitable commercial advantage.