Patent Searching and analysis are one of the important steps while doing Patentability Search, Invalidation/Opposition Search, Freedom to Operate (FTO) or Clearance Search and Landscape/State of the Art Search, etc. The accuracy of search increases when we use right tools and therefore the first step when you have to conduct patent searching is to look for the right kind of tools that suits your budget as well as accuracy.
Different paid and unpaid or free patent databases are available in the market and this article draws a light on a brief comparison between paid and unpaid databases and why paid databases have an extra edge over unpaid databases!!
Coverage area of a patent database is one of the major factors while choosing a database because patent laws are applicable worldwide and if we miss a relevant patent just because a database doesn't cover more jurisdictions then it becomes a concern.
There are paid databases in the market that cover more jurisdictions registered in WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) rather than unpaid databases. However, if your budget is low, a patent database should be wisely chosen that covers important jurisdictions (on the basis of major patent filing jurisdictions like US, CN, JP, KR, DE, FR, etc.).
Unpaid databases always cover less jurisdictions and that remains a drawback for a critical patent search. Although, national patent office websites (like Espacenet, Patentscope, USPTO, KIPRIS, etc.) of important jurisdictions should always be checked because they mostly provide reliable patent data for free.
Data security and confidentiality is also a major concern for many users while selecting a database. Paid databases assure maintaining confidentiality of your data that is crucial for searches like Patentability or Freedom to Operate Searches where your patent application or product is still under ideation and you cannot take the risk of revealing your data in public.
On the other hand, unpaid databases do not assure you for confidentiality of your data and you can never be sure if it is safe to search your idea on unpaid database when you have not even applied for IP protection.
A searcher runs a minimum of about 50 search strings and analyses a minimum of 500 documents in a normal day. This feature of paid databases is a winning aspect over unpaid databases because it enables filtering out of unwanted documents and allows you faster and easier access to documents related to your requirement. This feature saves time and lot of money and embarrassment later.
Mostly unpaid databases provide you results mixed with junk documents and it becomes more cumbersome to reach a relevant result.
This feature is available in paid databases and can only be preferred in case confidentiality factor is met. This feature allows you to save your search and you can go back to the previous search that saves your time, and ultimately enhances efficiency of the search because you can limit your new searches with elimination of already viewed results or you can limit your results with already cited results in case of an invalidation search that again saves your time.
Unpaid databases do not have this feature and cannot be preferred unless confidentiality criteria are met.
Interface of paid databases is more user friendly with many features like large number of patents with their images are better visible for analysis, visibility of all images at one page, less responsive time to input commands, full patent availability (including abstract, claims, description, images), patent translation, etc. are some of those important features that make interface of paid databases user friendly as compared to user interface of unpaid databases.
Data export feature is one of the important features that make paid database a preferred choice especially for studies like Landscape or State of the art and Freedom to Operate Searches when you have to categorize patents and perform analytics on a large data set.
Exporting feature in paid databases also provide different options to export like Legal status of patents and patent families, assignees, inventors, patent family members, and other bibliographic details of patents that makes it easy to analyze a large data set in MS Excel or PDF or other formats.
Every day a new patent set is published worldwide, or a new information related to patent or patent families like legal details, updated assignees, additional forward/backward citations, litigations etc. are amended. If a patent database doesn’t update itself on regular intervals, then it can cause problems like missing relevant information in critical studies like invalidation search, Freedom to Operate Search and Patentability searches as well.
Paid databases update frequencies are often more periodic and repetitive as compared to unpaid databases.
This feature is an advanced feature that is available in some paid databases and many paid databases are working on it. The AI feature allows fast Patent screening especially when the turnaround time (TAT) is lesser. Many paid databases provide automated intelligence and analytical reports with charts and insights, that enables a company to easily review its R&D strategy and make appropriate decisions. Although, this feature cannot be fully relied upon since it is not perfectly streamlined to think and act contextually perfectly like humans, many paid database companies are working on developing this feature. This feature is not available in unpaid databases.
Additional Add-on Features
Paid databases come with additional features like highlighters, graphical analysis, citation search, similar search, top assignees, top classifications, etc. that makes searching and analysis more exhaustive and interesting. Many unpaid databases like Google Patent, Lens.org are updating these features and we may see these features soon in them too.
Concluding, both the paid databases and unpaid databases can be selected on the basis of Coverage Area, Data Security, Junk Screening and User-friendly features with respect to criticality of search and budget. In case of confidentiality and coverage area, you should always look for paid databases especially when you want to conduct Patentability Search and Freedom to Operate Search.
Unpaid databases like Espacenet, Patentscope and national patent office websites like USPTO, KIPRIS, etc. can be preferred and it can make your search more exhaustive but be critical and wise while choosing an unpaid database for your patent searches.
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