There can be any number of reasons why you would want to conduct a patent search.
The last three of these are the most common forms of searching undertaken. It is important to remember though that searching is not fool-proof as no search is 100% reliable.Just because you cant find something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, it simply means you cant find it.
A patentability search is one that is designed to help in the determination of whether a particular idea meets the criteria of being novel and / or inventive, perhaps the most significant of the tests of any patent examination.
Novelty is by far the more easier feature to determine as its a factual query, if you can find it then its not novel. This is done by reviewing the “prior art”, which is term used to described that which is know before the filing date of your application.
In most countries the term “prior art” is restricted to publications, items that are available in a real, tangible form as opposed to more transient forms, such as lectures or demonstrations. Any relevant prior art that is unearthed can be very useful particularly if found prior to the filing of an application as it can help to focus the direction of the patent application or even shape the overall commercial strategy and allowing for a more informed decision making process.
An infringement search is also referred to as a freedom to operate (FTO) search as the intention of this type of searching is to see if there is published patent documents that disclose the idea or concept that you are considering to pursue.
If the results of the infringement search uncovers valid patent documents that are for the same idea then a determination needs to be made as continuation with the idea or concept may result in infringement claim being raised against you at a later date.
This type of searching is not comprehensive as pending patent applications have not yet been examined and also there may be applications that were filed but not published during the relevant period. For these reasons it is strongly recommended to have in place a followup schedule for further infringement searching to cover this period.