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Prior Art Search Tips

Searching for Prior Art

In order for a technology to be patentable, the work must be new, useful, and non-obvious to others in the same area of research. It is important to search for “prior art” to understand what has already been done in the field and to determine whether the technology or parts of the technology meet the requirements of being new and non-obvious.

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 a technology 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 technology. 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 technology 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. To begin a patent prior art search, visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office website and follow their seven step strategy.  Google Patents and the European Patent Office databases are also good resources (links below).

It’s important to report your findings to OTM.  The Technology Disclosure Form has a section for just this purpose.

Prior Art Search Resources:

LSU Libraries -- Patent & Trademark Subject Guides

The United States Patent and Trademark Office

The European Patent Office

Google Patents