If you want to find a patent of a product that is patented, you may need to first find a patent number for the product. Finding such product patents might be useful for you in scenarios where you want to analyze your competing products and the patents protecting those products. Additionally, you may also want to be cautious if you are commercializing any overlapping features because if there are any patent-protected features in your competing product (that you are also using in your product), the competitor can later seek royalty (a percentage of your revenues) from you on account of patent infringement. You may want to check this article to understand the meaning of patent infringement.
While the study of searching for all patents on which your product may infringe is a separate topic, let’s look at how you can quickly find patents that protect a product. Since there is no database that directly maps all products to their corresponding patents, there are several indirect techniques you can use to find out the product related patents you are looking for.
Technique 1: Check the product body, labels, tags, user manuals, datasheets and any related documentation for any reference to a patent number. This number is called the publication number of the patent. Go to Google patents and do a patent search by this number and you will find the patent publication.
It is not always that the patent number is directly available on the product body or documentation. Therefore, there are alternatives that you can use to find the relevant patent, as listed below.
Technique 2: Another approach is to search patents by the assignee or company that manufactures the product. You can use any of the free patent databases available (linked in point 4 of this article).
For example, in Google patents you may simply type “inassignee: Tesla Inc” to search for Tesla patents.
One point to note here is that sometimes the company names differ across their publicly known names and their patent assignee name. If you are unable to find patents from their publicly known names, find out their legal names online and and use them as assignee names. Additionally, some companies who are subsidiaries of their parent companies, file patents in their parent company’s name. You can use the parent company’s name in case you are unable to patent patents from their subsidiary names.
Technique 3: Sometimes, small to medium-sized companies do not file patents in the company’s name but do so in the name of their co-founders, MD or chairman. If you are unable to find patents using step 2, find the name of the founders and top-level management and search using their names in your assignee patent search. It is likely that those patents are used in their products.
As a side-note, you may also want to explore the names of investors on-board – in some cases, investors or board members also license-out patents to startups for using in their products.
Technique 4: An additional technique you can try is to find out any explicit mention of the term “patent” on the company’s website. This is a direct confirmation that a patent does exist and you are not shooting in the dark. You need not browse through every page on the website to search the patent.
Just type the search string “site:<company website> patent”. Taking the same Tesla example above, just type “site: www.tesla.com patent” to search the word “patent” on Tesla’s website. Also, keep an eye if you find any patent number on the website. If you find a mention of the word “patent”, but not the patent number, repeat techniques 2 and 3 with different possible assignee names to find the patent.
Technique 5: Linkedin is a fantastic tool for showcasing one’s achievements. Many professionals list out their patents with a direct mention of the patent number. You may simply search for a company’s official page, and check some employee profiles to see if they have mentioned any patents. This technique works great if the number of employees is small in a company.
Technique 6: Another approach you can try is to look for those search results that have the word “patent” in proximity to your product name.
For example, a news article or blog may mention that your product is patented or may even mention the inventor names with it. This provides a definite indication that a patent exists. If you are unable to find results, you at least know that you are not hitting the right target and need to try harder.
Use the search string “<product name> **~* patent” for this technique. For example, if you want to look for pages that mention, say, ‘Vaseline’ and ‘patent’ in proximity, just type – “vaseline **~* patent” (no quotes required) for relevant results.
Technique 7: If you are unable to find the patent with any of the above methods, use the free patent databases and enter keywords related to the features the product has. There are a couple of tricks you may use here as well.
First, enter the product name in a database and see if there are any patents that mention the product names. Some companies like Apple, for instance, mention their product names in some of their patents.
Second, you can modify your search tool settings to search your keywords only in claims. That can give you some more relevant search results.
If the above 2 tricks are also not successful, you can try doing a more detailed search on a search tool by using relevant keywords. If the search results are large in number, you can reduce them by shortlisting them by the relevant CPC classification or assignee name. I have detailed out this kind of a search strategy in this article to search patents on Google Patents. You can try the same on other free databases as well.
Technique 8: Always look out for any news articles or blogs mentioning any licensing deals related to the product you are searching patents for. If you search keywords are not yielding the right results, this type of a mention can provide a positive indication.
In my experience, I have found steps 2-6 quite effective for products or patents by small companies/startups to medium-sized companies while steps 7-8 have been useful for large-sized companies. However, there is no fixed rule on what strategy should be applied. You should select one based on your product and the company under consideration.
Technique 9: If you are searching for Indian products, remember that sometimes companies only file in India to save huge foreign filing costs, since India is significantly cheaper than many other mainstream patent filing destinations such as US, EP, Japan etc. The challenge regarding such a scenario is that Indian patents are not yet available on many free databases such as Google Patents, Freepatentsonline, EP smart search etc. If a patent is filed for your product in India but not outside India and you do not search the Indian Patents separately, you may conclude that a patent was not filed, which is incorrect. Therefore, you need to search for Indian patents separate in the official Indian database – Inpass.
I hope the above tips prove to be useful for searching patents related to your product. Please share any strategies that you use or if you can think of a better strategy, below in the comments.
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