A comprehensive prior art search involves wide variety of techniques to arrive at the most relevant results pertaining to a present invention. A first step towards searching for a prior art involves a patent analyst needing to identify the inventive concept of the invention. A thorough examination of the invention disclosure would help the patent analyst in pinpointing the inventive concept. Once the inventive concept has been identified, a patent analyst is required to determine a set of keywords summarizing the invention and the inventive concept. Identifying correct set of keywords can have a contrasting effect on the results in comparison to keywords that are identified incorrectly. The correct set of identified keywords acts as a foundation in arriving at the most relevant search results.
Once the keywords have been identified, the next step would be using the various available databases for a worldwide prior art search which broadens the scope of prior arts. Examples of these databases include Thomson Innovation, USPTO, Patent Lens, Arch Patents, WIPO, etc. The identified set of keywords are then used in a search query field of the databases in various combinations using Boolean operators such as OR, AND, NOT, etc. A right combination of keywords used in the search query field will help in narrowing down the search results. A prior art search technique called “class search” is used for arriving at improved results pertaining to the present invention. The class search will identify all patents in the same class as that of the present invention. Another technique used in prior art searches is an “Assignee search” and an “Inventor search”. An assignee search divulges all patents assigned to an assignee of a prior art. This technique helps in identifying all relevant prior arts pertaining to the present invention which otherwise could have been missed. An inventor search divulges all patents assigned to an inventor of a prior art. This technique helps in identifying all relevant prior arts pertaining to the inventor.
Another technique which helps in identifying the relevant results is by using cross references listed in the prior arts of the present invention. Cross references lists all the patents where the prior arts have been referred to and also all the patents which the prior arts are referring to. This technique helps in arriving at the most relevant search results.
Once the prior art results have been arrived upon, a patent analyst needs to check if all the elements of the inventive concept have been searched for, which helps in deciding if the present invention is novel and/or obvious.