A patent watch is the process of monitoring patent applications and/or recently issued patents. Many nations grant patents through a patent office. A patent protects an inventor's device or process by prohibiting others from making, selling, or using another device or process that infringes on the patent. Essentially, a patent allows the owner the exclusive right to use his invention in any manner he may choose for a specified period, which is typically 20 years. A patent watch allows companies and inventors to protect existing patents, avoid patent infringement, and monitor competitors or technologies.
Companies that specialize in conducting a patent watch provide services to a variety of clients such as manufacturers that design and sell new products. Services may include a patent watch on a global basis since many nations grant patents. A company performs searches on a periodic basis as frequently as a client may request. A specialist conducts searches through computer databases or manually if necessary. Companies may focus searches on particular technologies, inventors, firms, or design a search to meet a client’s specific needs.
To protect an existing patent, an owner may hire a company to maintain a patent watch. If there is pending application for a patent or a newly issued patent infringes on an existing patent, the company alerts the client. A patent owner may then raise legal challenges. Many countries have procedures to enable challenges to a patent application or to an existing patent. In the U.S., for example, a person may request a reexamination of a patent, which may result in the patent office revoking a patent or limiting the scope of the patent.
A patent watch is also beneficial to companies or individuals designing new inventions. It allows them to avoid patent infringement. A successful lawsuit for patent infringement could force a firm or an individual to pay substantial damages. This is true even if the patent infringement is accidental. To avoid this problem, information from a patent watch company could enable a person to design around an existing patent to avoid infringement or abandon a new project entirely.
An organization may also hire a patent watch company to monitor a specific technology or industry. For instance, drug manufacturers may wish to monitor competitors or industry trends. This may also allow them to enter into licensing agreements to manufacture or distribute a new product similar to one they may already be working on. The costs of developing a new device or process are substantial, and a patent watch may help these firms avoid wasting efforts and resources or use their resources more efficiently.