Search Risks and Mitigation
There are two challenges with all patent searches. The first is the overwhelming number of patents and publications that exist in the modern world. Consider for a moment that if just one person before you had your exact idea, there would be just one patent that shows your invention. With over eight million United States patents, a searcher must find this one patent. The odds are worse than finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.
The second challenge is knowing when to keep looking, and when to stop. You see, if you haven't found what you are looking for, that can mean either it does not exist, or that you simply haven't looked in the right place yet. Unfortunately, many low-cost search services seem to quit almost before they have even started looking.
To overcome this first challenge, the needle in a haystack, one must think outside the box. If you were searching for that proverbial needle, and happened to have a very powerful magnet . . . voila!
Keywords are the most commonly used search technique, and provide an excellent starting point. Unfortunately, keywords are notoriously unreliable in the world of patents. Would you expect a ball-point pen to be called a "writing utensil", "marking tool", or, our favorite, an "ink dispenser"? If you tried to include all of the various words that might be used, you will have tens of thousands of patents to sift through.
Instead, the US and European Patent Offices rely upon technology classification to gather and organize related patents. To date, the US Patent Office has divided more than eight million patents into more than 150,000 technology cubby-holes. At Quill & Disc, we know how to find the right cubby-holes.
To overcome the second challenge, when to stop looking and conclude the search, we must rely on our experience in addition to what we are finding in the documents. Many times the documents we have reviewed may suggest or imply that there is more out there than we have seen. In those cases, at Quill & Disc we will keep looking, to try to make sure we have "turned over all the stones."
Interestingly, in the 2008 Federal Register the US Patent Office published their calculated fiscal year 2007 costs per international search report and written opinion, which came in at $2,284. They also published the cost to contract out the same search report and written opinion ($1,837) and contract oversight and quality review ($237), for a total of $2,074. While there are a large number of patent searchers and firms providing searches for a few hundred dollars, we have not in the past found these to provide better quality than an inventor's own keyword preliminary review, described here.
At Quill & Disc, we recognize the importance of a reliable and confidential search, and work very hard to treat your search with the same care and concern we would want and expect if we were the inventor. To achieve this level of confidence at a reasonable price, we have developed one of the largest non-governmental repositories of patent information in the world and our own fully in-house proprietary software, with capabilities unavailable anywhere else. As one of only a handful of companies worldwide receiving and manipulating patent data directly from the issuing US and European governments on a regular basis, this database of both US and Foreign patents enables us to locate and identify relevant patents and technologies in a very efficient, effective and reliable manner.
Over the past decade, the reliability of these tools and the effectiveness of our methods have been proven again and again. In fact, we are often asked by our corporate and venture-capital clients to conduct searches on already-granted patents, often uncovering important documents that neither the applicants nor the issuing Patent Offices located on their search. We apply the same tools, methods and thoroughness to new invention disclosures as we do in the review of granted patents.