If you have been working on developing a novel medical device, you want to make sure that your intellectual property is protected with a patent. But before applying, a patent search is necessary to determine if the concept meets the legal conditions to be patented. We’ve outlined how to conduct a medical device patent search, along with some resources to help you through the process.
The Importance of a Patent Search
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), a Department of Commerce agency, grants patents to businesses and consumers looking to protect their ideas in the United States. A patent search is the first step to ensure that the USPTO will approve an invention. Once obtaining a patent, companies can manufacture and sell a device or license the rights to another company.
If a company manufactures a device that infringes on someone else’s patent, they may face a lawsuit, or at the very least, hit a dead end in product development. Some companies have spent upwards of $500,000 dollars designing a device before applying for a patent and finding out the product is already on the market. That’s a half-million-dollar investment down the trash.
When should you conduct a patent search?
A patent search should be done as early on in the inventing process as possible. The USPTO offers a number of support centers throughout the U.S. that provide training, events, tutorials, and other print and electronic resources to help you conduct a search.
What do you look for in a patent search?
Before you develop an idea, search the market to determine what products, if any, compete with your own. One should look for already granted patents, published applications, and prior art. A prior art search is conducted to determine if the invention is available to the public in documents, products, or processes that have been sold or used in the past.
How do you conduct a patent search?
You can search the USPTO’s databases online or visit one of their regional offices in person. The USPTO offers a seven-step strategy to search U.S. patents and published patent applications. In short, they recommend to:
- Brainstorm terms for your invention.
- Enter each term preceded by CPC Scheme in the USPTO’s search box on the right hand corner of the home page. CPC stands for Cooperative Patent Classification.
- Use the CPC Definitions to find which classification your concept falls under.
- Retrieve U.S. patent documents in the PatFT (patent database) with the relevant CPC classification you selected.
- Review the documents.
- Using the CPC classification again, find published patent applications in the AppFT (application database).
- Broaden your search to patents outside of the U.S. using the European Patent Office’s database and non-patent literature disclosures using the USPTO’s Resource Centers.
You can conduct a patent search on your own or hire a practitioner, such as a USPTO-registered patent attorney or agent.
Via Biomedical’s project managers can help you navigate patent research. With more than 150 years of medical device manufacturing experience combined, our team can provide you with the guidance, resources, and contacts you need to determine the patentability of your invention and develop your device.
Contact us to learn more.