Excerpted from SEAK’s course, “How to Become a Successful Physician Inventor”
So how do you find out if someone else patented your technology? Well, you can conduct, of course, a patent search. And it’s called a patent search because you’re searching patents and that’s, you may think, why is he saying that? Okay, well, there’s another kind of search that people confuse this with and that’s a prior art search. And we’ll talk about that later. That prior art search is whether something’s patentable. Different issue, very confusing to a lot of people. Let’s just, again, stick with patent search.
We wanna make sure we have freedom to operate and that’s the legal jargon that everybody says. They wanna have freedom to operate, freedom to sell their technology without anyone stealing. So you can conduct the search yourself. And there are definitely resources online. There’s Google Patents, there is US Patent and Trademark Office, there is European Patent Office.
Unfortunately, I don’t use any of those because I have a proprietary resource that I use through Lexis and Thomson Innovation, but those are pretty good. I’ve had a lot of startups that I’ve said, “Just go to these websites, do some searching, see what you come up with.” And sometimes they come up with some pretty good things. And by the way, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to do a good search. There is skill behind it. Absolutely. But you have skills that an avid searcher actually doesn’t have. You have the in-depth knowledge of keywords that they never think of. And you can read it faster.
And so well, you don’t have necessarily the mechanical skills, fine tuned on the process of searching, it’s not that hard and you can make it up with your deep knowledge of the business and the technology. So I think a first good path….a first option is for you to try to search your own things before you hire anybody. And also if you find something there, then you, at least might be able to see if you can zig or zag or just throw your hands up.
Also, you can hire a professional search firm. That’s moderately expensive there. I mentioned Thomson Reuters. There’s Delphion. They’re all over the place. So firms where you actually have a professional searcher who you explain your invention to them and they go off and do a search. They can charge anywhere from…offer this freedom to operate search. It’s actually a little more expensive, probably $1,500 to $5,000, thereabouts, commercial company. If you do that, they all have their own ways of working. And I don’t pay attention.
The ones we work with, they have their ways of working too. They say, “Send me keywords, send me write-up, we’ll have someone search it.” And I feel very uncomfortable with that. I like to meet the searcher on the phone and make sure the searcher has… Because I hire professional searchers for my clients too, actually because it’s actually cheaper than having someone at $600 an hour doing the search. I like to meet the searcher, make sure they have the right technical experience as searchers. And I also know that the written word can sometimes be deceiving and I wanna make sure that they understand what they’re searching. So I want to focus them right into where they’re going.