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Prior art searches in the patent field

Before filing a patent, it is practically compulsory to have at least a first idea about the prior art which could affect the patentability of the invention to be protected.

The prior art searches are always critical taking into account the fact that the opposable references are documents of any nature (patents, articles, ...) and of any origin, consequently of any language, and that they belong to the most varied technical fields and can be classified in different classes and subclasses of the International Classification.

The companies which file many patents have departments of technological watching and they conduct documentary searches which may be of a very advanced level.

Failing to have at one's disposal a permanent follow-up of the state of the art, covering all the world over, it is however useful, before filing a patent application, to conduct exploratory searches.

Many websites allow to conduct a free search. This non exhaustive search is highly recommended even if it does not allow to foresee all the references which will be opposed by the different Patent Offices during the examining prosecutions.

The most complete database is that of the European Patent Office (Esp@cenet) which gives on line the patent summaries together with the texts of the patents as published (in PDF format) without restricting to European patents.

Other sites can also be consulted :

- Patentsearch

- SurfIP (in advanced search mode)

- US Patent Search.