Patent searches as aids in product development
When Gyro Gearloose has a problem, he puzzles and tinkers until a functional technical masterpiece is standing in his workshop. Afterwards, the neighbours are amazed at its practical benefits.
The starting point of any innovation is the vision. However, is it worth blindly realising an idea for a product without looking beyond the workbench or the lab? Developing a product right up until it is ready for market involves considerable investment. In the development process, therefore, various questions should be answered including:
• What solutions are already available?
• Does my invention infringe the IP rights of others?
Freedom to operate means that a particular product does not infringe someone else's valid patent. Inventions resulting from the product development stage, on the other hand, can be patented, which helps to protect against counterfeiting and capitalise on investments.
For reasons of due diligence, Prof. Heinz Müller recommends carrying out several patent searches during the product development process.
• Subject searches serve initially to collect ideas and knowledge about the market. A feasibility study should also prevent developing technical solutions that cannot be marketed because of other patents.
• Specific product solutions should be checked early on for their patentability.
• A final freedom-to-operate search prior to the market launch helps to monitor any existing IP rights of other market participants.
The quality of a patent search is determined by the degree to which it is customised to each customer's needs.
The article by Prof. Heinz Müller appeared in IPPro Life Sciences.
Autumn conference of the Association of Intellectual Property Experts from 24 to 25 October in Bielefeld (Germany)