Searching for patent data

Freedom to Operate Search (FTO)

(FTO, Legal Status Search, Right-to-use search, Clearance search)

FTO search is a patent search used to identify existing patents that could potentially be infringed upon if a product or invention is brought to the market. The purpose of this search is to ensure that a company or an individual has the freedom to make, use, and sell their product or invention without violating any existing patent rights.

The FTO search is done by searching through patent databases to find relevant patents that may cover the product or invention. This search can be conducted globally or on a country-specific level depending on where the product will be marketed. The identified patents’ scope must be assessed to determine if they cover the product or invention.

Legal status information of relevant patents is a crucial part of an FTO search. It provides information on the legal status of a patent or a patent application in particular countries or regions. This information is useful for making decisions on whether to enter a particular market, assessing the validity of a patent, negotiating licence agreements, and assessing a patent’s value.

Overall, conducting an FTO search is an important step in the product development process to minimise the risk of patent infringement when introducing a new product or invention to the market.

Let’s say a company has developed a new type of biodegradable plastic for packaging that they want to bring to market in Europe. Before they start manufacturing and selling this product, they should conduct an FTO search to ensure they are not infringing on any existing patents in the region.

They can start by searching patent databases such as the EPO’s database to identify any patents related to biodegradable plastic packaging in Europe. They may find that there are a few patents that could potentially be relevant.

Next, they need to assess the scope of the claims in these patents to determine if their product would infringe on any of them. If they find a patent that covers the exact type of biodegradable plastic they have developed, they may need to obtain a licence from the patent owner or modify their product to avoid infringement.

Conducting an FTO search before bringing their product to market can help this company avoid legal issues and potential damages from patent infringement.