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The importance of patent searches

Before embarking on patent protection or developing a new product, it is always wise to carry out patent searches. Searches can help you obtain an indicative view of the novelty of your invention and your freedom to operate.


To be patentable, an invention must be useful and ‘novel’. This means that your invention must not have been disclosed, either through use or publication, anywhere in the world before a patent application for the invention is first filed. It is, therefore, important to carry out a comprehensive search of published technical and patent literature to see if your invention (or a similar invention) has been disclosed publicly before.

Freedom to operate

Searches can also help you obtain an indicative view of whether any existing granted or pending patents exist that could potentially restrict your freedom to exploit your invention commercially. For example, it may transpire that a competitor has managed to obtain a granted patent in Australia (or has an application pending) that could stop you exploiting the whole or a part of your invention. Please be aware that even if you obtain a granted patent for your own invention, it is still possible that working your invention may still infringe one or more third party patents.

Patents are territorial in scope so searches should, ideally, be done in each jurisdiction where you want to exploit your invention commercially.

Search Costs

A patent attorney can conduct professional patent searches on your behalf and report the results with advice about the relevance and impact of any prior art discovered. Attorneys normally charge for searches at an hourly rate so a budget should be set according to your business requirements. In addition to professional searches (or as an alternative) prospective patentees and innovators should also consider carrying out their own patent searches using freely available online databases, such as Google Patents.

International-type searches

After filing a provisional patent application, the applicant is entitled to apply to the Australian Patent Office (IP Australia) to have an international-type search conducted for the invention described in the application. This is broadly equivalent to the search that IP Australia initially undertakes after an international (PCT) patent application has been filed in Australia.

Further details of international-type searches can be found here.


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