Innovation exposes to the risk of interfering with pre-existing third party rights: so it is necessary to check the validity of your trademark, patent or design by a prior art research on IP databases.
Here the risk of anticipating and conflicting prior art is high, and it can be determined not only from products already on the market or granted patents, but also from inventions filed and not yet granted, marketed or even published.
So a prior art search is essential before proceeding to substantial changes for a product or process, regardless of the intention to patent to verify that the innovation is:
- free from third party rights;
- available for patenting.
The two concepts are completely different: an innovation can be available for patenting, but not freely exploitable if it is based on concepts already covered by a patent; vice versa, an expired or abandoned prior patent does not prevent exploiting an of innovation, but further patents on the subject could be, in the light of anticipations, too trivial to be patentable.
In case an idea is anticipated, a prior art search is of enormous help also to avoid the unnecessary expense of the filing an idea that is totally anticipated or for claims.
In Trademarks prior art is any sign that is similar and not necessarily identical, so a Google search is not enough to verify that a sign is available for registration as trademark.
A thorough and proper prior art search is highly recommended before filing a trademark registration, this will allow to ensure the road is clear from obstacles before committing to substantial investments.
Free online databases are made available by most Trademark Offices, a thorough professional search is needed to ensure the result are not limited to an exact match, but effectively cover all possibly conflicting trademarks that may cause legal obstacles. Such thorough professional search uses search keys and matches results from different databases to cross the data obtained to ensure your trademark is uniquely identifying you, no similar trademarks are known across all relevant countries and no similar trademarks have been refused registration from relevant Trademark Offices.