Novelty and Inventive Step or non-obviousness, as it is referred to in some jurisdictions, are two of the most important patentability requirements. An invention will be eligible for a patent grant only if it is novel and not obvious in the light of prior art. Prior Art, also known as state of the art, is the knowledge and information that is available to the public on the filing or priority date of a patent application. Any information that has been published, used, sold, documented, advertised, disclosed in the absence of a secrecy contract, can be considered to be prior art. An article in a scientific journal, a process used by a small scale industry in Sweden, a master's thesis report sitting in a library shelf of a university in Egypt, or a patent application that was published in the Spanish language at the Spanish Patent Office, can be prior art.

In order to ascertain novelty and inventive step of an invention, all prior art relevant to the invention must, ideally, be identified. Access to prior art is limited due to various barriers such as language, documentation, and so on, and it is impossible to excavate all prior art relevant to the invention. However, a considerable extent of the prior art can be retrieved from the patent and literature databases by performing a search. This article will give a primer on patent searching in India.

Patent Searching In India

Searching Patents in India is a challenging task due to lack of online databases that provide complete patent documents and effective search facilities. Since a comprehensive official database is not yet provided by the Indian Patent Office, multiple sources must be visited in order to perform a search. Some of the important sources from which one can mine patent data in India are the official gazettes, online sources, and patent registry.

Official Gazette1

Patent filing information and details of accepted patent applications are published in the official gazette of the Indian Patent Office. The gazette provides very limited information related to filed applications. Details such as application number, title, abstract, filing date, assignee details, inventor's details, priority information, claims and so on, of the accepted applications are available in the gazette. The official gazette can be manually reviewed at the library of the patent office.

Additionally, starting from January 21, 2005, the patent office has started publishing official journals, which are available online on the Patent Office website in pdf format. Such journals are published every Friday and hard copies may also be accessed from the office. The journals provide bibliographic data relating to published applications and granted patents.

Online Databases

Till date, no single online source can enable one to conduct a comprehensive patent search for the applications filed and patents granted at the Indian Patent Office. However, several private and public databases are available which enable one to acquire information on Indian Patents.

  • Official Indian Patent Database2

    The Indian Patent Advanced Search System (InPASS) was introduced on February 27, 2015. Prior to InPASS, IPAIRS [Indian Patent Information Retrieval System] was used to conduct patent search in India. InPASS is an updated version of IPAIRS as it allows for a full-text search of all Indian patents and patent applications. Users can conduct a patent search using Wild Cards and Boolean Operators also. The field restrictions provided by the database includes title, abstract, application number, applicant name, patent number, inventor name, IPC class and so on. Furthermore, patents can also be searched by the date of priority, priority country, date of filing, or date of grant. The database provides full text of the patent document along with documents generated during office actions, if any. The system additionally provides guidelines for searching which is aimed at enabling easy navigation through the system.
    Apart from this, InPASS also allows a person to check the legal status of the granted patent in the 'Patent E-register' tab wherein the user can enter the patent number along the displayed code and click to show E-register. The result will display the legal status of the patent, date of next renewal date, and bibliographic data of patent.
    Similar to patent grant search, the Indian patent search database allows one to check the status of the patent application in the 'Application Status' tab wherein the user can enter the application number along with the displayed code. The result will display the details of application such as application number, applicant name, date of filing, priority date, title of the invention, publication date and also application status. User can view all the documents relevant to the patent application in the 'View Documents' tab provided at the bottom of the result page.
  • Ekaswa3

    Ekaswa is an initiative of the Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC), which is an autonomous organization under the Department of Science and Technology. Ekaswa provides patent information in the form of three databases, namely Ekaswa A, Ekaswa B, and Ekaswa C.
    • Ekaswa A provides bibliographic information pertaining to patent applications filed and published from January 1995 to December 2004;
    • Ekaswa B provides bibliographic information pertaining to granted patents from January 1995 to December 2004; and
    • Ekaswa C provides bibliographic information of patent applications filed and published from January 2005 onwards.

Patent Document Acquisition

The patent documents identified during the search on any of the databases may be obtained by filing an application at the patent office. The process for obtaining such documents has been provided in chapter XIII under the title Register of Patents of the Patents Acts, 1970.





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