Prior Art Search: Everything that Innovators Need to Know

Patents are legal rights that allow patentees to exclude other entities from manufacturing or selling the invention without their permission. Given this benefit of patents, innovators (potential patentees) are always keen on securing patents as soon as possible by filing patent applications. However, before filing these applications, they must carry out comprehensive prior art search to ensure that their invention is patent-worthy.

If you are an innovator who is seeking patent protection or wanting to conduct prior art searches, then this article is a must-read for you. It covers everything about prior art search and why these searches are crucial for innovators.

Also Read: Prior Art Search – An Overview

What is Prior Art?

Before we move on to determining patentability through prior art, let us first understand the term ‘prior art’.

Prior art can be defined as any scientific and technical information that exists before your invention. It may include any journal article, technical publication, press release, marketing brochure, product information brochure, newspaper article, book, periodical, or patent.

Prior Art Searches and their Importance

Every invention must meet three basic criteria for being eligible for patent protection – novelty, utility, and non-obviousness. Out of these three, novelty, which means that the invention is new and has not been published anywhere, is the most important one. Innovators must determine the novelty of their inventions before filing patent applications. It needs carrying out prior art searches that show all the existing prior arts related to their inventions.

Besides helping in determining novelty, prior art searches can be used to generate ideas for research and development (R&D). Also, one may avoid duplication of research, reduce R&D investment significantly, develop new technical solutions to problems. Moreover, they may evaluate a specific technology and plan new products. Furthermore, it helps to find legal status of patent applications, keep abreast of new technological trends, monitor competitor’s research activities.

Also Read: 8 Best Practices to Ensure Accurate and Comprehensive Mechanical Prior Art Searches

Why do Innovators Bank on Patents for Identifying Prior Art?

For a thorough and comprehensive prior art search, an applicant needs to go through every available data source including, but not limited to, technical publications, press releases, product information brochures, newspaper articles, books, and patents. Among these sources, innovators rely on patent documents more than any other form of prior art. Mentioned below are some of the reasons why these documents are crucial as prior arts:

1. Detailed information

Every patent applicant must describe his/her invention clearly and completely such that a person with ordinary skills in the relevant technical field may replicate it. As providing inadequate disclosures can result in the rejection of a patent application, applicants ensure they do not miss out on capturing any information. Therefore, innovators can find detailed information in patent documents.

2. Easy Access

With the advent of the digital age, storing and retrieving information has become easy. Therefore, every country owns a patent database to house documents related to inventions with a grant or under review. Innovators can easily use this data to search for prior arts.

3. Up-to-Date Information

Usually, companies do not reveal their R&D work in scientific journals or other publications to prevent leakage of important information. Most of these companies, however, are willing to reveal their invention after securing a patent as it offers them a monopoly for a specific period. This means that patent databases are always up to date and suitable to search prior arts.

4. Systematic Classification  

Patents, unlike other repositories of documents, are classified based on their technology areas. Such technological classifications make the process of searching relevant prior art documents extremely easy. For instance, databases of organizations such as the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) use the International Patent Classification (IPC) code to segregate patent documents based on their technology area. Thus, you can find all the relevant data related to your invention , if you are acquainted with these systems.


Performing prior art searches before filing a patent application is crucial for innovators who are looking for patent protection. An exhaustive prior art search involves identifying all the relevant patent/non-patent literature to ensure that an invention is worth patenting. If an innovator wants to perform prior art searches before seeking patent protection, we got your back. Sagacious IP’s Patentability Search service provides the relevant prior art at the right time. Click here to explore our service.

  • The Editorial Team

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