Standing on the Shoulders of Giants – How to Research Existing Inventions and Technological Innovations for R&D

Whether you are a researcher, an entrepreneur or a leader in corporate innovation, it would be crucial to know what kind of technological solutions already exist to obtain information on R&D (Research and Development), adapt an existing solution to your use, challenge the validity of a patent or collect evidence of patentability. Sometimes a lot of time and money can be spent trying to invent or innovate on something only to realize too late that the same thing has already been done by someone.

So how do you know what kinds of technology solutions already exist? Today, in the age of the Internet, this is not difficult. You just need to know where to look and how to look. I learned this in my PhD course and later in a training course I attended at the Swedish Patent Office in Stockholm in 2018. Basically, you can research inventions and technological innovations in two categories of searchable databases: patent databases, and non-patent literature databases. This article is meant to show you the basics so you can use it as a starting point to learn more about this topic.

Patent databases

What is a patent? It is a kind of intellectual property (IP) right granted for an invention which can be a product or a process. Sometimes people loosely call all kinds of IP protections patents, but in reality patent is only one of the IP protections, and it is the most difficult to obtain. Other intellectual property protections include copyright, trademark, industrial design, utility model, traditional knowledge, geographical indications, genetic resources, etc. So far, only one Bhutanese has obtained a patent from the Intellectual Property Department of the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Obtaining a patent takes a long time because patent examiners have to make sure that the invention is really new.

Patent databases contain detailed patent information in a searchable format. There are many free patent databases online. However, you should have some idea of ​​the patent search. To do this, you can get help from the Intellectual Property Department of the Ministry of Economic Affairs or from one of the Technology and Innovation Support Centers (TISC) recognized by the IPD. Alternatively, you can search online for patent search guides and follow them.

Free patent databases

Scope of patents by WIPO (patentscope.wipo.int)

The PMOI is one of 15 United Nations agencies. It has 192 member states. Patentscope by WIPO provides free access to over 83 million patent documents from several participating patent offices, and it can be used in 9 different languages.

Google patents (patents.google.com)

Google’s patents were launched on December 14, 2006 as an experiment, but quickly gained popularity. Like the Google search engine, it has a simple user interface. It even has a feature to include non-patent literature from Google Scholar.

Espacenet is managed by the European Patent Office (EPO) and provides access to more than 130 million patent documents from 97 countries. The website even allows you to search with multiple language combinations using its machine translation system.

USPTO (https://www.uspto.gov/patents/

look for )

The USPTO is a federal agency of the US government that is responsible for granting US patents and registering trademarks. The website not only shows published and applied patents, but it also gives information on what patents are, whether your idea is eligible for a patent, patent application process, patent maintenance, etc.

Other free patent databases

PQAI is an open source platform, created to improve the patent process by enabling better search and analysis of prior art. Lens.org is an initiative of Cambia and Queensland University of Technology.

Paid patent databases

The free databases mentioned above are excellent and can serve most of your purposes. But for professional searches, people use one of these paid patent search services: Derwent World Patents Index, PatBase, Patseer, Drug Patent Watch, Patsnap, Patent Inspiration, and WIPO’s INSPIRE.

Non-patent literature

Non-patent literature (NPL) refers to all published documents other than patents or patent applications. This includes scientific publications such as journals, books or conference proceedings, news reports, etc. Patent examiners use the NPL to check whether a patent application is really new (inventive step).

NPL Academic Search Engines

Google Scholar (scholar.google.com)

Google Scholar is a very popular academic search engine for finding academic journal articles and conference proceedings. Its simplicity and speed make it very useful for performing a quick search on any topic of interest. It offers coverage of over 300 million articles spread across various academic disciplines.

Microsoft Academic (academic.microsoft.com)

It’s Microsoft’s answer to Google Scholar and isn’t far behind in usability and coverage since its 2017 relaunch.

PubMed (pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov) is very popular for free research of biomedical and health literature.

SemanticScholar covers over 180 million papers and partners with IEEE, Microsoft Academic, and Springer Nature. Semantic Scholar applies AI to extract meaning from scientific literature.

Two simple examples of technological research

Suppose you want to create an electric fence to keep monkeys away, as there have been reports that the electric fences currently used in Bhutan are not very effective against monkeys. You can easily search Google Patents using the keywords “electric monkey fence” and see what results you get.

There are many patent documents related to the subject. Some look very interesting and may be worth exploring further. Some of the best results are: “Efficient electric fence for monkeys, eagles and hakubishin”, “Electricity-saving type electric fence pulse high voltage generator capable of certainly electrocuting the monkey and wild boar”, and “Electrified fence for the prevention of the invasion of monkeys”. ”. Likewise, you can search other patent databases to see if you get any interesting and unique results. The advantage of patents is that the patent holder is required to disclose full information about the technology with detailed drawings and explanations in exchange for protecting their patent rights.

Similarly, a search using the keywords “Solar Powered Vegetable Dryer” returns many interesting results. If you are an innovator interested in providing a solar powered dryer for our farmers, the first step is to search these databases and see what others have done. It will certainly refine your own invention or innovation.

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