Understanding Prior-Art and Prior-Art Searches


Prior-Art (or Prior-Art Searches) is one of the most important factor of success in a patent granting process. It is so because it determines the novelty of the invention.

An existing and matching prior-art means your idea is not novel. And, hence, it is pointless to continue with such an idea. Thus, it is important for inventors to do a thorough prior-art search. Prior-art search is also called as Patentability Search.

It is important to know what and how’s of prior-art before we get into the world of patenting and inventions.

This article is, hence, all about understanding the basics of prior-art and prior-art searches. Prior Art Searches

What is Prior-Art? 

Prior-art refers to any scientific and technical information that exists before the effective date of a given patent application.

Prior-art is found in any public document. For example, patents, technical publications, conference papers, marketing brochures, products, devices, equipment, processes, and materials.

The “effective date” of a patent application is the date of the earliest filed patent application which the pending application could claim.

For instance, the effective date of the present application is March 6, 1990 if the intended application is a division of a parent application dated March 6, 1990. This will be the case even though the present application itself was filed much later.

Important Sources of Searching Prior-Art

Some of the important sources of searching prior-art are Prior Art Searches

  • Patents.
  • Technical Publications.
  • Conference Papers.
  • Marketing Brochures.
  • Products details.
  • Devices details.
  • Equipment details.
  • Dissertations and thesis.
  • Journal and press articles.
  • Books and periodicals.
  • Product Images (In case of electronic circuits).

How to Search Prior-Art

Step 1: Finding appropriate keyword(s)

 The patent search is a kind of database search. We put relevant keyword(s) on the database and it returns appropriate search result accordingly.

It is important to include as many relevant keywords as possible to our search. This helps to improve the chances of finding the most relevant document. This is possible only when we find a maximum number of keywords that can describe our intended idea or invention.

Simply put, keyword research is one of the most important elements of prior-art search.

Step 2: Product searching

 We search already existing products with ‘product searching’.

 A patent search is far more important than product search for many ideas and inventions. In patent search, we find patents related to our invention. And, then, try to predict the uniqueness of it.

Step 3: Patent Searching

Patent search is one of the strongest prior-art search tools which is used to determine the uniqueness of an invention in question.

Patents are legal and technical documents unlike other prior-art sources. And, thus prior-art sources are more trust-worthy compared to patents. 

Step 4: Image Searching

Images are a goldmine of information if used wisely. Sometimes, a killer prior art can be better found in images like memory circuit even though text-based searches are more easy.

Understanding Classification Systems

Things are classified for the sake of benefit and same goes true for patent search.

Normally different countries have different patent classification system. This system is built as per their demands. For example, we use USPC (United States Patent Classification System) in the United States. 

However, Co-operative Patent Classification System (CPC) is, still, the most used system. Patent search professionals tend to use CPC system while doing prior-art searches.

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