12 Design Patent Search Strategies
While conducting a design patent search, if you notice that you are getting irrelevant or junk results, try revising your search strategy. Further, utility patents may turn up in the searches, it is important to keep in mind that the designs from utility patents will be used as prior art to reject your design patent application. Therefore, it is essential that one conducts their search while considering utility as well as design, shape, and aesthetics.
Getting a design patent is simpler than getting a utility patent for an invention. Despite the simplicity of obtaining a design patent, applications get frequent rejections from the patent examiner. To avoid such rejections, it is important to carry out a comprehensive and thorough design patent search.
Extensive design patent searches are a typical and essential method for assuring that the design application is granted. Although applicants can carry out design searches on their own, it is recommended to seek professional help in order to get accurate search results and avoid the risks of rejection.
What Constitutes a Prior Art?
• A prehistoric sculpture
• A piece of technology that is centuries old
• A previously described idea that cannot possibly work
• A YouTube Video
• A graphic or an image
• A Product Concept Video
Given its relevance to the design in question, anything and everything can be prior art.
How Design Patent Search is Carried Out?
The answer is quite simple — You merely convert the shape into words!
Everything you need to know about strategies to conduct design patent searches is covered in the article, along with the best methods to conduct design patent searches.
In order to obtain a solid prior art, people frequently limit their search to design patents, drawings, and utility patent descriptions while conducting a design patent search. But more often than not, they might not come across any relevant prior art at all. When you land up in such a situation, it is time to embrace unconventional methods!
12 Design Patent Search Strategies
1. Product Reviews Websites
When conducting a design patent search, product review websites are a fantastic place to start. But keep in mind that only the products that have already been launched or are soon to be launched in the market are on these product review sites. These websites are some of the best places to look for evidence that might be able to invalidate the design because they are filled with product reviews and first-hand pictures of nearly every product that is introduced to the market. Also, exact technical details and vital information about the products can be availed at these websites. These kinds of websites can yield a wide range of results bringing to light many designs, some of which might not be found in patent databases.
One thing to keep in mind while searching is to stick to a particular niche that you are interested in. Say, for example — You want to get information about the best cameras, PetaPixel and ISO.500px top the charts. Sites vary according to the technology, and one must be vigilant enough to look at different ones to get out the best results.
2. Product Prototype Search (Crowdfunding sites)
There are no accurate statistics, but some experts estimate that for every recorded invention that eventually reaches the market, ten never will. This means that if you want to find out if your design is unique, you should look for products from the past as well as present and future! Sometimes the products are not fully functionalized or are in the development stage, and are not present in the market. The best option for getting your hands on such designs and concepts is crowdfunding sites! Crowdfunding sites contain a directory of products that may have never made it to larger commercial websites or store shelves. They can often result in discovering products with designs that conflict with a present application.
You can start with websites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, CircleUp and GoFundme for some incredible prototypes and designs for products that might hit the market in the near future.
3. Product Designs
Every product on the market today began as a concept embodied in a sketch or drawing or representation in some form or an illustration. Drawings continue to be an acceptable form of the prior art even though a product may differ from how it was initially imagined. Given that a similar design was already conceptualized even though it never materialized into a product, could render a design patent invalid. The reason for invalidation is that in this situation, the design does not meet the most crucial requirement for patentability: novelty.
You can look for product designs on various platforms on social media like Pinterest, YouTube and Tumblr, etc.
4. Manufacturer’s Samples
It is indeed interesting to note that most companies do not create or make a product from scratch. Each design or product, for that matter, is made up of different components. For example, a fan is made up of blades, housing, hub, motor, mounting device and other components. These parts are frequently purchased from various suppliers before being put together to create a finished product. So it’s no brainier to go through manufacturer or vendor sites to get a glimpse of the elements or components that one has in their design.
5. E-commerce Websites
When someone uses the term “e-commerce websites,” what comes to mind? Sale? Discount? Products?
Technically, online shopping portals are best for searching for any kind of design because everything is right in front of us. One can compare the technical details, look for different versions of similar designs, get a general idea about state of the art and also get to know which products are up in the market.
For instance, all it takes is a comprehensive search on various e-commerce websites like Alibaba, Amazon, Myntra, etc. to determine whether a specific design of a purse or camera or perfume bottle that one wants to patent is truly unique or not.
6. Geography-Based or Region-Specific Search
What is the design you aspire to patent that has already been conceptualized and described in the literature of a foreign land whose language you cannot comprehend?
You must expand your search to non-native locations where many innovative ideas are patented, developed, and manufactured in languages not known to us. Countries like China, Korea, Japan, etc. Due to a limited search, designs that already exist in other areas of the world would pass the test of novelty in the US since most prior art searches are frequently restricted to USPTO or European databases. Don’t commit this blunder! Today technology has made it possible for us to break the language barriers and explore the world in a better and easy way. Incentivize on that!
7. Product Backtracking
Everything has a starting point.
Backtracking frequently reveals the sources of inspiration for certain goods, such as product sketches or earlier iterations that may successfully invalidate a design patent. Suppose you think that a specific product category or class may have prior art that clashes with your design. You might look into the product’s development background and get a better insight into its relevance to your design. This process mainly involves looking up earlier versions of the product or models.
A novel design for one person may have already been created, shined, and zoned out, making room for new ones. Even when it is no longer in power, the legacy endures, which is sufficient evidence to invalidate a design.
8. Google Lens
Google Lens is essentially a visual search engine. With the help of deep machine learning and a given smartphone’s camera, Google Lens can recognize objects in front of the camera lens and provide options for actions like scanning, translating, shopping, and more. For instance, if you take a photo of a landmark and then hit the Google Lens shutter, the landmark is identified by Google Lens, which then retrieves pertinent information from the internet. Depending on the landmark, this data may contain a description, reviews, and contact details if it’s a business.
It can look up similar photos on the web that depict the same thing as the one in a provided picture or screenshot. It’s an excellent approach to locate visually comparable photographs or even to pinpoint details like a certain design or item visible in a picture. Look for the “Search” option in the main sliding bar of options at the bottom of the Lens interface to conduct this bit of Google magic.
9. Locarno Classification
Locarno classifications were established in 1968 by the Locarno Agreement which is internationally accepted. This industrial design classification system makes it much easier to search design patents on international databases. According to the 12th version, the Locarno categorization system has 32 classes and 237 subclasses. Design searches using Locarno classifications are possible in a number of databases, including Hague Express Database, Orbit Intelligence, Designview, etc.
The ability to filter search results is a key benefit of employing Locarno classification. Locarno classifications also help in finding references having unusual text in the title, which cannot be tracked using standard keywords.
10. Patent Citation Analysis
Patent citations are sources that describe technology previously understood and described in patents or other scientific literature. When a new patent application is made under the patent system, the inventor must describe how the new invention improves upon the recognized prior art by citing it. While in other instances, the invention may be a wholly new use of scientific advancement, in some cases, the new invention offers a realizable advancement over current technology. Thus, citations have been regarded as a noisy but valuable indicator.
The fundamental idea underlying its application in design patent search is that papers or patents that are cited as prior art tend to contain significant ideas that serve as the foundation for several inventions. This might be your hint!
11. Keyword Based Search
The keyword is essential for any search strategy out of all the aspects undertaken. The group of terms or terminology that an inventor uses to identify the different parts of an invention are called keywords. It is one of the most crucial tools an analyst uses to effectively build successful search techniques that quickly produce the set of nearest prior arts. Boolean searches add an additional dimension to keyword searches, allowing you to search for multiple keywords together, or exclusive of each other, or within a certain distance from each other.
The following processes are often taken to prepare the search keywords:
• Extract the terms and keywords from the invention disclosure.
• Fetch the synonyms of the search terms.
Junk patents surfacing during patent searches are further minimized or avoided by filtering the synonyms according to the technology domain.
12. Product Videos on Social Media
Many inventions never become products, yet there may be evidence of them somewhere — in pictures, concept videos, prototype designs, etc., to name a few.
For example — The Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4 are Samsung’s upcoming flagship foldable phones, but some people are dreaming of something different! Designer Alexander Bazilewskiy is one of them. He developed the idea for the Samsung Galaxy Fold Mini, which has a vertical wraparound screen. It even turns into a tablet. Let’s assume this concept of the vertical wraparound screen is not materialized today, and someone comes up with a similar concept years later. Now the concept which failed to materialize will act as prior art for the new design. So visiting such social media platforms is a great idea to get your design patent search going.
Moral of the Story
To be able to effectively defend your design, you should conduct regular searches and observe the market also after the registration of your design. While conducting a design patent search, if you notice that you are getting irrelevant or junk results, try revising your search strategy. Further, utility patents may turn up in the searches, it is important to keep in mind that the designs from utility patents will be used as prior art to reject your design patent application. Therefore, it is essential that one conducts their search while considering utility as well as design, shape, and aesthetics.
Materialization of the product is not the most important thing when it comes to designs. Even the documented concept is enough for the invalidation of the design in question. Most inventions solve a problem, and most problems have more than one possible solution. You need to examine other solutions too! Additionally, keep an eye on the market, product exhibitions, trade literature, and industry publications and conduct your own internet image searches.