Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Patent Searches

In order to get a patent, an invention has to be useful, novel and not obvious.  In the US, the useful standard is pretty simple to meet:  for all intents and purposes the invention has to do something.  The arguments in getting a patent generally come down to novelty and obviousness.

To determine novelty and obviousness, the patent examiner will perform a “prior art” search to determine if the invention’s concept has been previously disclosed.  As a part of the process, the examiner will generate references to patents and publications for closely related concepts and inventions and then use these references to argue against issuing a patent for the application. 

It is always best for an applicant to have a patent search done before filing an application.  Not only does the search help to determine whether it is worth filing for the patent, but by having some idea of what the examiner is going to find it is often possible to write applications around potential conflicts with prior art.

There are several companies that do patent searches and I strongly encourage inventors to use them.  A proper search generally requires an understanding of the US Patent Classification System, the Cooperative Patent Classification System, knowledge of some pretty detailed search techniques and, in order to be efficient, access to expensive databases.  And then, once you have cleared these obstacles and found the patents, the inventor still has to read and evaluate the patents.  The truth is that even a low end patent search will give you better results than what inventors can do for themselves. 

Fortunately, there appears to be a good bit of competition among patent search companies.   Patent search costs are a function of the subject matter and the complexity of the invention.  A patent search for a simple mechanical invention will usually cost less than $1,000 from a high end company and will probably cost under $500 from lesser prestigious companies.  Simple chemical and electrical searches will start around $1500 from the better firms. 

Even from the best companies, patent searches are not perfect.  They will miss references that the examiners will find.  This is because patent examiners are very good at what they do.  They are experts in their fields with a lot of experience, access to the best internal and external databases, and, as employees of the USPTO, they have the support of an institution that has been doing this sort of work for over 200 years.  Applicants need to expect that examiners will find some unexpected references.

 Below is a summary of selected patents that have been recently issued in textile related classification codes:

Wear-resistant outsole:  A shoe sole with a perimeter made of a harder elastomeric material than the material used to form the traction elements that form the inner protion of the sole.  Patent:  8671592.  Invenor:  Dojan.  Assignee:  Nike, Inc.

Lightweight and flexible article of footwear:  A shoe an outer member including slots and an inner plate with protective strips that increases flexibility for the wearer.   Patent:  8671593.  Inventor:  Becker,  Assignee:  Nike, Inc.

Article of footwear with traction members having a low profile soleCleat arrangement for a golf shoe.  Patent:  8671594.  Inventor:  Ortley and Grott.  Assignee:  Taylor Made Golf Incorporated.

Ornamentation for a footwear upper.  An ornament that can be attached to a shoe strap or shoelace.  Patent:  8671595.  Inventor:  Nelson.  Not Assigned.

Drawing frame for a spinning machine:  A drawing frame head that is detachable from the spinning frame.  This is clearly intended to simplify maintenance but the spinning machine may also be able operate without the head.  Patent:  8671657.  Inventor:  Malina.  Assignee:  Maschinenfabrik Rieter Ag

Self-expanding pseudo-braided intravascular device:  A self-expanding, pseudo-braided device embodying a high expansion ratio and flexibility as well as comformability and improved radial force. The pseudo-braided device is particularly suited for advancement through and deployment within highly tortuous and very distal vasculature. Various forms of the pseudo-braided device are adapted for the repair of aneurysms and stenoses as well as for use in thrombectomies and embolic protection therapy.Patent:  8671815.  Inventor:  Hancock  Assignee:  Abbot Vascular Solutions Inc.

Braiding device for catheter having acuately varying pullwires:  A braider for braiding wires to a tube comprising an iris assembly having stacked iris plates.. The braider includes a feeder assembly configured for advancing the tube through the center apertures and a braiding assembly configured for braiding a plurality of filaments around the tube and the plurality of wires as they are fed through the iris assembly.  Patent:  8671817. Inventor:  Bogusky.  Assignee:  Hanson Medical Inc.

System for adjusting the fit of a bra to a wearer's bosom:  A system for adjusting the fit of a bra includes a bra having cups, a bridge and an underwire channel sewn beneath each cup. The underwire residing in each channel is bendable along at least one axis, can be lengthened, and is capable of retaining its adjusted shape after being adjusted. Patent:  8672727. Inventor:  LaRoux.  Not Assigned.

Jim Carson is a principal of RB Consulting, Inc. and a registered patent agent.  He has over 30 years of experience across multiple industries including the biotechnology, textile, computer, telecommunications, and energy sectors.  RB Consulting, Inc. specializes in providing management, prototyping, and regulatory services to small and start-up businesses.  He can be reached via email at or by phone at (803) 792-2183.

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