How to conduct an effective patent search?
To conduct an effective search, it is always better to start writing a brief description of what your invention is all about. To begin with, state the problem and solution to overcome it. Your solution might be in the form of novel process, product, device, apparatus, article or mere ornamental design. A comprehensive search strategy will include three main inevitable steps and they are:
(1) General key words search = More hits
(2) Classification codes search = Cannot be determined (depends on the subject matter of invention)
(3) Hybrid search (classification code(s) + keyword(s)) = Relatively less no. of hits (depends on the subject matter of invention)
(1) Keywords search
Identification of analogous terms with respect to your proposed invention is mandatory. Technical jargon has its own importance while conducting keywords search. It helps you to retrieve existing patents (sometimes may not, it depends on the patentable subject matter) claiming product(s) or processes overlapping your “so called” invention. Moreover, it allows you to identify classification codes and strategize various ways of drafting a patent specification.
(2) Classification codes search
Secondly, identify pertinent patent classification codes related to your invention. Perform classification codes search (sans keywords) to see the noise in your desired technology area. In both the above mentioned steps, you may end up with false positives and they are predictable. Presently, commercial patent search databases have access to utilize IPC-R (IPC revised) version. This facility allows conducting a dynamic search by collating advanced level; subclass level; core level and/or invention level searches. However, to get rid off the false positives, consider the third step which is quite promising.
(3) Hybrid search (classification code(s) + keyword(s))
To zero in on a search the hybrid system facilitates the purpose. Notably, Boolean operators assist you in retrieving the potential patent documents that you may look for. Most of the time, the hybrid search will pitch less number of published patent documents when compared with the other two steps. However, to get additional hits you can amend the keywords that have been identified in the first step. Keyword amendments will get calibrated by applying apposite patent classification codes.
Ever, intuition plays a vital role. Consider, the search acknowledges your solution, means that it is an unclaimed property; fence it. Once the search yielded the required prior-art patents, read the complete specification, comprehend the nuances of patent drafting and filing strategy. To conclude, there is NO hard and fast rule to execute an effective search. Yet, it is a deciding factor.
Search and re-search effectively, till your patent application gets granted!