Prior art search is defined as including all the information available in the public domain that may jeopardise the patent application’s claim of novelty. If an invention or information has already been described in the prior art before the filing date, then a patent cannot be obtained for that invention.
In a prior art search, prior patents and non-patent literature are analysed. The main goal of performing a prior art search is to find patents or literature that bears close resemblance to the proposed invention. The examples of documents searched during a prior art search includes granted patents, published patent applications, non-patent literature such as journals, databases, articles, books, catalogues, conferences, seminars, brochures, etc.
The idea behind conducting prior art searches if to find out whether an invention is actually novel, to determine if the inventor can successfully get a patent or if the invention has already been patented by some other company. There are other reasons as well for performing prior art searches such as understanding competition, avoiding patent infringement, drafting patent application, obtaining market information, tracking latest technology, etc. Companies would want to first confirm whether the invention is novel before spending time and money in filing a patent that would fail the test of novelty.