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Matthias Rößler - 20. April 2022

Research on patents and patent applications

There are different forms of searches.

Novelty of Invention: The novelty search is used to determine whether the invention meets the patentability requirement of novelty and what is already known about the invention before filing a patent application.

State of the art: When making a strategic decision to enter a new market, it is important to get a rough overview of freely available or already patented ideas. Prior art searches provide an overview of patent publications in a technical field and allow identification of favorable starting positions and/or necessary partnerships. [See also Blog 6/20]

Freedom-to-Operate (FTO): FTO analyses are used to check whether a particular technology may be used or whether existing third-party property rights are infringed. The more precisely the product or technology characteristics are known, the more targeted this comprehensive search can be prior to market launch. [See also Blog 2/19]

Opposition Search/Invalidity Search: In order to oppose the grant of a patent of a third party right, it is possible to show that the examiner has not yet reviewed all relevant prior art documents and as a result the patent should be revoked for lack of novelty or inventive step. Finding such prior art documents is the subject of this search.

Patent search in online databases

In the international full-text databases of the German Patent and Trademark Office (Depatisnet), the European Patent Office (Espacenet) and WIPO (Patentscope), information on patents and utility models published worldwide can be searched free of charge. [database links]

This can be done as part of an in-house search, by commissioning search institutes or by cooperating with patent attorneys.

Setting filters when searching patent databases

In addition to the possibilities of searching for patents by words or combinations of words, or searching specifically by title, patent number, application, or by inventor name, it is advisable to consider how to usefully limit the search for relevant publications, for example:

  • Search by country scope: search for German or European patents or PCT applications
  • Search of specific fields of technology: Search by patent class (International Patent Classification - IPC)
  • Research for specific competitors
  • Research within a certain period

Patent attorney assistance in developing a search strategy

A meaningful search is complex and the approach depends strongly on the objective. Our patent attorneys advise companies, inventors and start-ups on patent searches in all technical fields and assist in the development of search strategies.

We also use non-official, fee-based patent and specialist databases, which offer more comprehensive search options and support in the preparation or statistical analysis of the search results. This allows for a more targeted and cost-efficient search.

Costs of a patent search

The costs incurred in the course of a patent search depend on the search effort, the complexity of the subject matter, the number of IP rights to be analyzed, etc.

As a non-binding guideline, you can expect the following costs for the various forms of patent search:

  • New product research:
    approx. 1,000 - 1,500 EUR plus VAT
  • State of the art - research:
    approx. 3,000 - 4,500 EUR plus VAT
  • Freedom-to-Operate (FTO) - Research:
    approx. 5,000 - 8,000 EUR plus VAT
  • Opposition / nullity search:
    approx. 3,000 - 5,500 EUR plus VAT

If the results of the search are still to be legally evaluated, further costs will be incurred depending on the effort involved.

Regarding Matthias Rößler:



Matthias Rößler, German and European Patent Attorney since 2003, studied mechanical engineering at the RWTH Aachen. He is co-founding partner of karo IP. A main focus of his practice is the management of large patent portfolios and the enforcement of bilateral litigation proceedings before patent offices and patent courts. His additional qualification as Master of Laws (LL.M.) qualifies him especially for multinational infringement matters in Europe.

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Further articles:

International Trademark Protection
Matthias Rößler - 29. July 2022

Third Party Observation in European Patent Law
Justus Kreuels - 14. June 2022

The new Patent Law Modernization Act
Matthias Rößler - 30. March 2022

Trademark protection for virtual products
Justus Kreuels - 28. February 2022

Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) for patentable inventions
Justus Kreuels - 17. January 2022

Trademark infringement: Border seizure by customs
Matthias Rößler - 16. December 2021

US Patent Law: Patent application in the USA
Justus Kreuels - 18. November 2021

The European Patent: Cost-optimised filing strategies for Europe
Justus Kreuels - 16. September 2021

Trademark protection in the European Union
Matthias Rößler - 23. August 2021

International design protection: The Hague Agreement
Justus Kreuels - 12. July 2021