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Prior Art Search
The sources of prior art include patents, periodicals, books, and products. Different prior art sources have different values and require different efforts. Patents are the most consistent story-teller of prior art. Periodicals tend to be piecemeal, but can be very on-point. Books are sometimes useful, but are often too general to be more than supportive. Products can be great prior art, particularly as defensive art in litigation, but finding sufficient technical details about some product types, such as old software or electronic products, can be time-consuming.

Patents are readily searched, as comprehensive libraries of patents exist. IdeaIP uses Thomson-Delphion IP research, which offers worldwide patent search, various patent analyses methods, and non-patent prior art sources as well, such as the complete collection of IBM Technical Disclosure Bulletins. As a best practices reminder, IdeaIP created a customized help file for Delphion patent search. For prior art searches, IdeaIP makes Delphion sing.

The primary skill to efficient patent searching is using keywords that narrow the search without eliminating candidate prior art. To be efficiently effective, a prior art searcher must be knowledgeable with the terminology used in the technical field. Other techniques in patent searching include patent cluster analysis using keywords and patent class/subclass, and backward tracing of forward references.

Efficient periodical search requires ready access to the most likely sources of relevant material. IdeaIP has a database of periodicals to help select the most likely sources, ready access to numerous online libraries, and intimate familiarity with local libraries.

Sometimes helpful, particularly in litigation, books are readily found through online search. IdeaIP is familiar with several online technical book stores besides the behemoth Amazon, and often relies upon the wonderful local Powell's Technical Books.

A first step in uncovering prior art products is searching periodicals for relevant articles or advertisements. InfoTrac has an excellent database for computer product articles. If the actual product or manuals are needed, the follow-on technique is contacting the manufacturer, distributors, product reviewers, specialty shop owners, and/or collectors.

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