Patent Searches and Opinions
Patent searches and patent opinions can be useful tools in assessing risks and identifying opportunities at all stages of the life of the patent. There is a wide range of options for patent searches and opinions, each has its own particular use, including but not limited to the following:
(i) landscape searches during the development phase of your invention;
(ii) patentability searches when assessing whether to file a patent application;
(iii) clearance searches when bringing a new product to market;
(iv) infringement searches; and
(v) validity searches when assessing litigation opportunities and risks.
Landscape searches help you identify the general state of the art in a given field and find areas into which to steer your innovation. A landscape search looks for the most relevant patents in a given field of technology to help assess the current state of the art. Landscape searches can be helpful at the very start of the innovation cycle.
Patentability searches and opinions help you identify whether your specific innovation is patentable over the prior art. Patentability searches and opinions can be helpful when deciding whether to file a patent application for your invention or use other legal tools to protect your invention.
Clearance and Freedom to Operate
Clearance searches and freedom to operate (FTO) opinions help you identify whether your product infringes any existing patents. FTO opinions are helpful to anticipate litigation risks before launching a new product.
While the United States Patent and Trademark Office is the gatekeeper for issuing patents, not all issued patents are valid and enforceable. When it is important for you to know whether an issued patent is valid and enforceable, a validity search and opinion analyzes the issued patent in light of the prior art and the prosecution file history (the communications between the patent owner and the United States Patent and Trademark Office). A validity search can be useful in determining the strength of your patent before suing someone for infringement or in evaluating a patent that may be used against you in a patent infringement suit.
Infringement Analysis and Opinion
When faced with an accusation of infringing a competitor’s patent, you may want to learn as much as you can about the patent and how it relates to your product. Similarly, before sending your competitor a cease and desist letter for infringing your patent, careful analysis can be made to formulate your infringement claims. An infringement option may help you to make informed business decisions when dealing with infringement issues.