Procedure for Patent Search

By Mamata Saha

Patent search: Is it necessary?

For every individual in this world, there is a multitude of ideas, and we’re sure each one is worth documenting. At the same time, how do we determine whether they are all novel and non-obvious? Let’s take a minute to understand the terms ‘novel’ and ‘non-obvious’ here. To be ‘novel,’ an idea or invention needs to be unique while it is ‘non-obvious’ when there isn’t any patent literature available to indicate any past evidence of the idea or product.

For an idea to be commercially viable, it mustn’t just be new but also bona fide.In other words, the invention or product shouldn’t resemble any idea or product that may have made an entry into the market. Here’s where the concept of patent search comes into the picture. In simple terms, patent search involves searching for patent documents that provide related information on your idea. The data is then used to ascertain the novelty and non-obviousness of the invention, and eventually its patentability. In a nutshell, a patent search does the following things:

  1. Directs you to patents that might bear a resemblance to your invention.
  2. Helps you to revisit your invention and make essential changes to make it decidedly different from what’s in the market.
  3. Helps you steer clear of lawsuits and in turn, safeguard your invention, so that innovators don’t end up hijacking your work and making money out of it.

While the idea of carrying out a patent search by yourself is appealing because money doesn’t feature anywhere, if you have some funds to dip into, it is wise to get hold of a reliable patent professional to get the job done. Another alternative is patent search software, which also requires money.

Patent search process: Steps

Let us now delve, not too deeply, into the steps that go into a patent search.

  1. Know the difference between patent search and prior art search

It’s important to be aware of the difference between the two before starting your search because they differ in terms of the scale of the search. A patent search is small-scale and involves searching for patents containing information relating to your idea. Prior art search, on the other hand, involves searching for patents the public was familiar with before a patent application was filed. It’s far more extensive or large-scale in nature compared to patent search and includes searching for non-patent documents. Finally, prior art searches are critical to determining the patentability of an invention or idea.

  1. Come up with appropriate keywords

Should the tool you’re using have options for semantic search, it’s a good idea to think of relevant keywords and use them to commence your search for patent documents. Keywords are instrumental in establishing the direction of your search and guide you toward finding the right data. 

  1. Use selected keywords to find out the appropriate classification code (CPC, IPC etc.)

The keywords that you identified should be used to determine the correct classification pertinent to your invention. Once found, the classification codes can be further used to run a detailed search to locate the appropriate patent data bearing a resemblance to your idea. 

  1. Search the repository of issued patents and published patent applications

Scan through the depository of issued patents and published patent applications using the classification appropriate for your invention. Here, you may want to note the following:

If you use other tools for a worldwide patent search, you may end up accessing both sets of patents (issued and published), concerning your idea, in one go. If the tool contains advanced filters, they should make it even easier to find relevant data in no time at all.

  1. Delve deeper to find related patents 

Prior art search should help you find more related issued patents and patent applications. While browsing through these documents, you may come across forward and backward citations, which can act as parameters to help you go deeper into your search. In a word, prior art and citations contribute to a more detailed and exhaustive search. 

  1. Widen the scope of your search and look for more data

How might you widen the scope of your search? By exploring patents from countries other than America as well as non-patent information from significant patent authorities. Researching a patent family in depth is another idea you can use to expand your scope and search, learning more about patents related to your idea.

A fully-automated invention analysis tool: Relecura’s Novelty

While we’re on the subject of patent searches, it’s important to mention Relecura. Relecura, an unparalleled leader in AI and AI-based tools, has a repository of tools dealing with a gamut of IP and innovation-related issues. One of its tools, Novelty, is a fully automated AI and NLP-driven invention analysis tool that uses a short text to generate a graphical representation of the invention, formed with the help of specific keywords extracted from the text. The summary graph highlights the relationship among the keywords.

The tool also gives you the choice of adding keywords if you want to do away with the idea of using text. Once you add a keyword and click on ‘Submit,’ you get several related keywords that fall under the categories of ‘broad concepts’ and ‘specific topics,’ followed by many related patents and ‘scientific documents’ or non-patent literature. 

Last but not least, the tool also has ‘optional fields’ that allow you to enter a patent number (if you have one) and extract a first claim, abstract, or run a prior art search. If you wish to carry out a prior art search and obtain documents before a specific invention date, you can make use of the ‘Invention date’ option. 

In the end, you save time, money, and resources and get what you need at the click of a button. A few relevant images taken from the tool will show you what we mean.

Fig 1: The tool gives users two options (text and keywords) to search for similar inventions.
Fig 2: Once text is entered (as in Fig 1) and the user clicks on ‘Submit,’ a summary graph is generated using keywords from the text, and shows the relationship between them.
Fig 3: If the user chooses to use keywords instead of text, suggested topics consisting of broad concepts and specific topics, which help them expand their search, come up.

Fig 4: The broad concepts and specific topics are accompanied by a set of patent and non-patent literature (or scientific documents). They can be saved, emailed, and downloaded per the need.


As you may have realized by now, there are many ways to search for a patent. However, it’s also imperative to seek the advice of a patent attorney to determine if your invention is veritable because the search process isn’t easy by any means. Finally, remember that a patent attorney can not only tell you whether your idea is authentic and patentable but also guide you in the application process that follows afterward.

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