What is a Patent Watch?

Christopher John

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.

Patent watch helps companies and individuals by allowing them to avoid patent infringement.
Patent watch helps companies and individuals by allowing them to avoid patent infringement.

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.

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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.

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