High-quality designs dominate our consumer economy. Businesses looking to enforce their brands need to invest in unique design choices that make their products and services stand out. Be it uniquely shaped watches or innovatively designed dresses – products that distinguish brands in crowded marketplaces are in great demand. That’s why more and more companies and individual inventors are applying for design patent protection.
- In many areas of innovation, the most-used way of obtaining patent protection is by filing design patent applications. Design patents are valid for 15 years. These patents also have far higher allowance rates compared to utility patents.
- Design patent applicants also have to go through much less hassle than utility patent applicants at patent offices.
- More importantly, design patents offer higher yields for filings. There are no maintenance fees as well. On average, a design patent application will cost the applicant $3,000-$5,500 (including submission fees, examination costs, etc.), whereas the average overall cost to get utility patents granted is around $7000-$20,000.
Hence, more companies are filing design patent applications at faster rates. However, such design-focused product companies will need efficient patent searching strategies if they want to protect their inventions.
The Importance of Patent Searching Strategies
Patent searching is the process of searching and researching patents, non-patent literature, legal literature, and other sources of information related to specific patent-oriented projects. Since global commerce is growing increasingly sensitive to innovations, patent searching has become a vital weapon for corporations across the globe. These companies want to maintain edges over their competitors. To do so, they use professional patent searching services as sources of strategic inputs which help them make smarter business decisions.
Depending on the requirements, companies or individual inventors can engage in four types of patent searches –
- Novelty/Patentability Searches – These types of searches are the most requested. They’re used to determine the chances of getting patent applications approved by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). These searches help patent applicants determine whether their inventions are patentable and worth pursuing with the patent office. These searches also provide inventors with valuable information about notable competitors operating in similar innovation spaces.
- Freedom to Operate (FTO) Search – Also known as clearance searches, this type of design patent searching is used to determine whether the patent applicant is free to commercialize his/her invention without the worry of getting litigated for infringement.
- Non-Infringement Search – Similar to FTO searches, this type of design patent searching helps inventors determine whether their proposed inventions are infringing other patents. For example, a non-infringement search should be conducted when a new product/technology is launched but is known to have similar features to an existing patented product/technology.
- Validity Searches – These searches are typically conducted to help defendants in patent infringement lawsuits.
Companies and inventors that are able to conduct these different types of design patent searches reduce the risk of infringement. They also gain valuable insights into competitor activity. Most importantly, time-efficient design patent searches enable inventors to speed up the process of commercializing their ideas. However, design patent searching isn’t an easy process.
Searchers require multijurisdictional access to make sure their patents are valid across different countries. Unless they have access to aggregated clusters of patent documents from various resources, conducting multilingual searches or detailed research would be impossible. Tools like Google Patent Search or the USPTO website aren’t efficient enough to perform comprehensive design patent searches. That’s why top companies partner with professional design patent searchexperts.
Professional Design Patent Searching Services – The Importance
Design patent applicants need to understand that the databases they’ll use for research will contain hundreds of thousands, if not millions of patents. Finding existing patents is extremely overwhelming. If you also want to review non-patent literature during your searches, the process will be even more challenging.
Both the USPTO database and the Google Patent Search options offer decent solutions, but they don’t include every existing design patent in the world. These databases also don’t contain non-legal or non-patent-related information. Design patent applicants may get tricked into the idea of pursuing their design patents once they don’t find exact matches on these imperfect databases.
That’s why partnering with design patent searching professionals who have access to more resources, and clear searching strategies is always the safer option. These experts perform combinations of keyword searches, classification searches, structure searches, sequence searches, and even image searches on all major databases to make sure they identify any potential sources of infringement for their clients.
Their effective search strategies are updated every year. That’s why most infringing parties that are preparing to challenge the validity of design patents, partner with these experts. Whether you’re a company that wants to know about the most superior designs currently in the market or interested in discovering existing prior arts before the launch of your product – you will need professional design patent searching services to navigate this ever-growing world of design patents.