Development projects – before you start – Search for Patents

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Introduction

In the first part of this series, What does the customer want?, was presented the art of extracting from the customer what he really wants and needs. In this second part will be addressed some other aspects that should be considered to help you to specify your project. Briefly, a research on similar projects must be carried out, so you get knowledge of the solutions developed by third parties.

A straight forward research that gives the best practical results on similar projects to yours, is the patent search. This search can be performed in several ways, through keywords, or by the name of the manufacturer, if it happens you to know who produces products similar to those you intend to design, or by the name of the inventors. The sites to perform these searches are the patent offices of various countries. I recommend the following:

  • Your national patent office. This is allways a very good start to find out if what you search is patented in your country.
  • If you’re from Brazil like me, try this:  INPI-National Institute of Industrial Property (Brazil)on this site you select the link serviços (service) and then the link of Marcas, Patentes, Desenho Industrial e Programa de Computador (trademarks, patents, industrial design and computer programs), and on that page select the link Continuar >> (Continue > >). After these actions the search page of the INPI is opened. When patents are available to read, they are in PDF format and accessible from the EPO (European Patent Office) . Recently a practical guide for patent searches (and brands) was made available by the INPIwhich is very good. Try it out: Guia Prático para Buscas de Patentes (e marcas) ;
  • EPO – European Patent Office. You’ll find patents gathered from many countries, including Brazil and the United States. You can search on this  link. Patents can be read in PDF.
  • USPTO United States Patent and Trademark Office On the american office, you can search only the american patents. A drawback is that these patents can only be accessed in the form of text or images in the TIFF format. It may be required to install an application such as AlternaTiff to read them. The search can be carried out on the following  link.

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 What to look for in patents?

It is necessary that you to notice within the text of each patent what the inventor is in fact protecting, because a significant part of the text is just a description of the state of the art of the invention amongst other details. What is actually being protected in a patent is only what is described in the claims section. Another important aspect in reading patents is the possibility to get to know the various solutions designed for a particular technology. In general the solutions described in a patent are well detailed and easy to understand.

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Why is it important for you to know these patents?

What is protected in patents can impact on your future project in the following ways:

  • You can’t use in your projectall or parts of the product that was protected by a patent, in the countries where this patent were filed, granted and still in effect or valid. These conditions are important and necessary. That also means that, if the patent was not granted, or is in the public domain or has not been filed in the countries where you you plan to market the resulting product of your project, you are free to use this knowledge of the patent and to copy it, if you want.
  • In the case of the patent be filed or in effect in the countries where you intend to market your product, you should observe what was protected and develop a workaround, a new or a in the public domain solutions for your project, because otherwise you risks of being sued by the competition and still have to take your product from the market. Sometimes it is interesting to try to get a license agreement of a patent with the owner of the technology. It is always a question of evaluating the cost / benefit of your business.

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Examples of use of the patent search feature

In the technical article Sensores Magnetostrictivos – Aspectos construtivos e de eletrônica embarcada it was used the patent search feature to study mechanical and constructive aspects of a magnetostrictive sensor as well as electronic solutions developed by some manufacturers. This example was used in a real case and helped to define various specifications of the project that came to be developed.

In the technical article published on the site Embarcados, Uso de busca de patentes como apoio à revisão bibliográfica, it is also presented the importance of the patent as a source of information both for the realization of projects, as to support management decisions regarding to the technology.
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In short, patents are valuable sources of information. I recommend to access the links above and to “take a walkon the sites, searching, analyzing the results etc. I’m sure you’ll like it and realize the importance of this feature.

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E-BOOKs free

If you want to dive a little deeper in the concepts of intellectual property, patents, trademarks, technology protection etc, I recommend downloading the free e-books highlighted below (in portuguese):
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Noções gerais sobre proteção de tecnologia e produtosInventor version – Technical coordination by Angela C. A. Puhlmann and texts by Claudio Fuentes Moreira. The focus of this publication is the patent, quite detailing that matter, while also approaching other themes, such as trademarks, copyrights etc.

Noções Gerais sobre a Proteção de Tecnologias e Produtos - Versão Inventor

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Noções gerais sobre proteção de tecnologia e produtos Entrepreneur version – Technical coordination by Angela C.A. Puhlmann and texts by Claudio Fuentes Moreira. The focus of this publication are brands and trademarks.

Noções Gerais sobre a Proteção de Tecnologias e Produtos - Versão Inventor

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Development projects – before you start

Check out the other articles in this series on how to start a development project:
  • Look for technical standards!  The care that must be taken in the preparation of a new project, if there is a need of meeting the  requirements of specific technical standards;
  • Study some more!  Other sources to get the necessary knowledge and extract the information that is necessary for the development of your project.

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Creative Commons License
This work, “Search for Patents“, by Henrique Frank W. Puhlmann, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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