One of the most commonly questions asked of many Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys (after ‘do I really need to search?’) is ‘where do I find the best information for conducting a search?’
Some IP databases can be accessed for free, but before doing so it is important to know what they include so you know what material you are searching through. Some databases are aggregates of several national registries whereas others only provide a window into a few.
Keeping in mind that for patents the requirement for novelty and inventiveness is absolute, meaning that an invention must be novel and inventive over any document or act anywhere in the world (n.b. this was not always the case), it is important to search databases with coverage of as many national patent registries as possible. Also, what part of the document are you searching? Many keywords searches of patent documents will only allow you to search titles or abstracts whereas the whole documents is what is considered for determining the novelty or inventiveness of your patent claim.
Espacenet is an aggregate of most national patent office registries, however it is limited in its ability to search just the abstract or title of a patent document. It’s breadth is quite astounding though, it even republishes registries that are not publicly available in their own country.
Google patents is great, it even provides a check box to allow you to simultaneously search Google Scholar. It provides a very flexible search, however it’s breadth is limited.
If you’re located in Australia like us or interested in an Australian entity, AusPat is the Australian national database which provides more detailed info on Australian applications and their history.
For trade marks or name searching there are fewer options. Keep in mind when searching for trade marks that many countries recognise trade mark (or similar) rights at common law. These are unregistered rights that can subsist through use of a brand and won’t be found on databases of trade mark registers.
WIPO’s global brands database is the trade mark equivalent of Espacenet, it is an aggregate of most national trade mark office registries. It is a great tool for selecting potential brands, it may help whittle your long list down to a shortlist.
Atmoss Is the database of the Australian register of trade marks.
Romarin is the database of international trade marks. This may also be worth a look.
Performing your own searching is a great first step to get a sense for the prior art or the market place, but before relying on the results of your own searching it is recommended that you consult a specialist to assist. It is perfectly reasonable to get an opinion on the results that you have found, discuss the scope of the search that you have conducted or to perform a more focused or thorough search.