The availability of free patent search databases offers quiet an alluring alternative to paid patent searches. At the outside, it might appear that you are saving money, but is it so in reality? With the vast amount of electronic data now available, it is more important than ever to pin-point your search interest rather than sifting aimlessly through a sea of patent documents and for this you require the help of an expert.

Here is a brief on the cost of doing patent searches for free :

– Manpower: Paid patent databases provide higher coverage and ease of search in a single platform, imagine the manpower you would need to employ to or work hours you yourself would spend to:

o  Conduct similar searches on multiple databases.

o  Make search query suited to each free patent search database – modify keywords, operators and search language.

o  No method to avoid overlap of results received– different family members from different databases.

o  Time spent in analysis professional researchers are used to analysing huge amounts of data on a daily  basis.

Increased risk & associated costs: No patent search is absolute or fool proof – even when done by a professional researcher. The chances of missing relevant patents are much higher in a free patent search due to database restrictions. A small estimate of the costs that could be incurred because of acting solely on a free patent search:

o Cost of paid search USD 500- 1500 while Cost of prosecuting a patent application in the US alone is minimum of USD 5000 – 15000 when going through an attorney. Imagine if the invention turns out to be non-patentable the money lost is much more than the cost of a paid search!

o Getting involved in an infringement suit would be much more expensive than getting a Freedom to Operate opinion.

As per the EPO: “Free patent search tools are not necessarily more cost-effective than fee-based databases, once you factor in your manpower costs. Fee-based services offer added value in terms of speed, indexing, textual enhancement, formatting and display of results. You should also be aware of the limitations of free products.”

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