Prior Art Search Tips

Prior Art Search Resources

Searching for Prior Art

In order for an innovation to be patentable, it must be new, useful, and non-obvious to others in the same area of research (i.e., a person of ordinary skill in the art). It is important to search for “prior art” to understand what has already been done in the field and to determine whether the innovation or parts of the innovation meet the patentability requirements.

Why research prior art?

There are several reasons to conduct a prior art search before filing a patent application. It allows you to discover whether any other similar technologies exist.  It also helps you better understand where an innovation fits within a broad field of study, which can be very helpful when drafting a patent application.  A prior art search may also alert you to new uses or new markets for the innovation. Finally, the existence of prior art may preclude patenting and commercialization.

How to perform a prior art search?

A basic patent search involves searching publicly available patent databases using key words that are closely related to the innovation and that would appear in a summary statement of a similar technology.  You can typically skim through a large number of patents to discard those that have little or no relevance. If some technologies are found that do have relevance, it is important to read through these patents or patent applications in detail. 

It’s important to report your findings in the Innovation Disclosure Form, which has a section for just this purpose.