Conducting patent searches is very useful for several purposes, not only for organisations such as SMEs and universities, but also for researchers. Indeed, patent databases are a goldmine of technical and commercial information that can be used to:
- guide the definition of an organisation’s IP strategy (identifying, for example, any barriers to developing an IP strategy, the avoidance of obstacles, etc.);
- define the state of the art (to find out what already exists, to check novelty, to improve the quality of a patent application, to understand the IP landscape surrounding your projects and IP);
- check for freedom to operate (to check if you do not infringe someone else's rights, or to search for the validity of third parties’ IP);
- check if someone is not in a position of infringing your rights (infringement still needs to be proved);
- keep track of who’s doing what (commercial intelligence).
Many of the patent applications that you can find in the databases are not even “in force” and therefore are free to be used in your own projects. This can happen for different reasons, such as the application's failure, withdrawal or expiry.