What's a 'Knock-Out' search? And how do you know if you need one?
When you’re thinking about pursuing a patent for a new invention, one of the first questions is, “has anyone done this already?”. We all know the feeling of having that million-dollar idea while in the shower, only to discover it’s already been done. This is what the patent office refers to as the requirement of ‘novelty’. If someone has already patented or published the idea, then unfortunately you can’t get a patent for the same invention.
Most inventors will invest in a Prior Art Search to discover any existing patents in the same area. These searches are ideally performed by technical experts that know the subject matter well. A good search will not only tell you if your invention is already patented, but also give you direction on how to best craft your claims to work around any existing inventions in the same area. All told, a good comprehensive search can cost up to a few thousand dollars.
These days, even that expense of a few thousand dollars will receive extra scrutiny. One alternative is to invest in a shorter search, just looking for any existing inventions or publications that are extremely close matches to your idea. This is what we call a ‘Knock-out Search’ — is there something in the public domain already that "knocks out" your idea completely? There’s no point in spending money for the details on how to construct your claims if it’s very obvious you invention has already been patented.
When should you consider a Knock-out Search?
1. Is your idea in a very active area of invention?
If there are hundreds of patents each year in your technical area, you may want to consider a knockout search. These areas have many more patents and publications, and it’s simply more likely that another inventor has already patented your idea. For example, we’ve all seen how voice activation technology has become more and more pervasive in the past 5 years. In 2018, there were 446 patents filed in the US Patent Office matching the phrase “voice activation”. That’s a lot of prior art that might be a close match to your own idea.
2. Is your idea an improvement to an existing invention
In a complete prior art search, much of the time and complexity is in finding the most relevant prior art. A good searcher may spend hours digging through existing patents, reading descriptions and claims, trying to find the most relevant references. If you are making an improvement to an existing invention, you already know the most relevant reference. The search can start from there and quickly find other similar patents. That one reference may even have what's called 'forward citations' - later patents that refer back to that one reference. One of those citations may be your exact improvement idea, or it may show that no one has yet thought of your idea.
3. Do you have increased budget constraints right now?
Let’s face it, in today’s world, even that few thousand dollars for a full prior art search is a lot of money. We’re all looking to cut costs wherever we can. If that’s your situation today, we’re here to help. At Bishop Rock, we offer a staged search product, which performs a quick Knock-out Search as a first step. Only when that result gives a green light to your idea do we move on to the complete prior art search. This is a great way to control costs since you only pay the cost of the complete search once you have a good idea that there is novelty in your idea.
You may be asking, why not just skip the search altogether? We don’t recommend this. Remember, between the hourly rates of the patent attorneys, and the filing fees at the patent office, the entire patenting process can cost $20,000 or more. If you skip the search, sure, you’ll save a few thousand dollars today. But you’re likely to find out years later that you spent tens of thousands of dollars on a patent filing that is never granted. That’s not a good strategy. Don’t let that happen to you.
The “Knock-out Search” can be a great way to get the information on novelty that you need, while keeping your costs under control.
Talk to us at Bishop Rock today.