Prior Art: What you need to know

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Prior art is commonly defined as any evidence which discloses your invention as already known. A product known to exist in the marketplace before yours in an obvious example, but any public knowledge which discloses your invention (other patents, products, published literature, public demonstrations, etc.), anywhere in the world, can be considered prior art. According to the EPO, it is estimated that for each recorded invention that reaches the market, ten inventions will not[1]. In order to properly qualify the patentability and novelty of your invention, it is necessary to conduct the broadest prior art search possible, including high-yield search databases. To find out more about search databases click here.

Two components vital to any proper prior art search are product searches and patent searches. A quality product search will include keywords that clearly describe what your invention does, as well as a search of existing products which may solve similar needs and problems. It is also important to carry out a competing art search – this can reveal products that are very different from your invention but satisfy the same need. With regard to patent searches, it is imperative that you find every patent document relevant to your invention that you possibly can, using every resource at your disposal – the validity or issuance of your patent depends on it.

Want to learn more about patent searches? We can help! Download our patent search guide today.


[1] European Patent Office

Interview With Peter Vanderheyden of Article One Partners

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AOP was launched in 2008.  In that time, they’ve grown from a few hundred researchers, to a crowd of over 42,000 registered researchers.  They’ve done research for many of the biggest names in innovation and patents, contributing work on high-profile cases and recently expanding into monetization with their unique methodology.

Following the acquisition of AOP in September 2017, Peter highlights their recent activity and insights, particularly since they were acquired by RWS, a well-known translation and intellectual property support firm based in the UK in September 2017.

Q: What spurred the creation of the company back in 2008?

A: AOP has always been about patent quality.  We all know that the quality of patents is a huge topic of concern to market participants and legislators.  Poor quality patents put the entire system at risk and it opens the door to bad actors.  At the same time, assessing quality, especially post-grant, is not an easy proposition given the broad definition of prior art.  The old orthodoxy is daunting and unreliable.  AOP started as a better way to find prior art, using the public, or, as we call them, the crowd.  And in fact, it has worked quite well.

Q: Do you still have that focus?  It sounds like a response to the NPE or “troll” issue, and the panic around that seems to have subsided for the time being.

A: I think AOP will always be centered on patent quality.  You’re correct on the initial focus.  There was a perfect storm in the 2009-2012 timeframe regarding poor quality patents being wielded in the market with questionable business practices — that had wide-ranging effects.  First, it drove a sense of urgency in those threatened by such patents to find a better way to locate invalidating prior art.  This helped launch AOP and it generated a lot of business that in turn attracted an impressive and talented crowd.  It also acted as a catalyst for patent reform that was long in process, resulting in the America Invents Act.  Many other things changed during that time, not the least of which was that corporate clients took effective action to fight bad patents and to develop risk management practices around impending threats.  In short, everyone got organized and developed processes to deal with poor quality patents.  AOP was a part of that process for many, and remains so today.  The net effect of all of these actions is a more confident patent owner and market player able to act deliberately in fighting bad quality.


Patent Search Strategies for Success: Join our Webinar

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On Wednesday 15th November, James Fahy and Peter Shea led a webinar titled ‘Patent Search Strategies for Success’. The webinar began by covering three main tool types available for strategy creation:

  • Keywords and classification
  • Citation
  • Name covering applicants, investors and signees

Peter Shea emphasized that ‘A strategy balancing the strengths and weaknesses of all appropriate search tools will be needed to deliver the best possible outcome.’

Once a search strategy is created, the search methodology will follow. Amongst the most popular searches are:

  • Novelty/patentability
  • Validity/invalidity
  • Freedom-to-Operate/Clearance

It was emphasized that Landscape Analysis, whilst not strictly a Search, provides an overview of patenting activity and help drive business decisions. This can be used in varying situations from R&D Decision Making to Competitor analysis.

Attorneys licensed in the State of New Jersey were able to receive up to 1 General CLE credit for attending. In the future, more webinars with CLE credit will be led by James Fahy and Peter Shea.
If you are interested in finding out about future webinars for NJ CLE credit, please sign up for our Insight posts.

If you have any questions, please contact your local RWS office.

Download your free copy of our Patent Search brochure here.

Acquisition of Article One Partners

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RWS Holdings plc (« RWS), the world’s leading provider of intellectual property (« IP ») support services (patent translations, international patent filing solutions and searches) and a leading provider of life sciences and commercial language services, today announces the acquisition of Article One Partners, LLC (« AOP »), a cutting-edge IP information business based in the United States, for a cash consideration of US$8 million (« the Acquisition »).

AOP’s online crowdsourcing platform links its clients to a community of over 42,000 researchers, across more than 170 countries, to provide them with access to IP intelligence that informs their litigation, licensing, patent enforcement and IP acquisition strategy decisions. The platform is able to match AOP’s clients’ requirements with researchers in the right technical field and geography. AOP has a track record of delivering critical litigation citations to its strong client base, which includes blue chip corporations such as Philips.

The acquisition will be highly complementary to RWS’s existing Patent Information business and PatBase offering, whilst reinforcing the Group’s focus on providing innovative technology solutions to its clients. In particular the acquisition will strengthen the US presence of RWS’s Patent Information division while expanding cross-selling opportunities across the existing client base. In addition, the support of RWS’s IP sales team in the US, Europe and Asia will bring AOP’s services to a wider market.

AOP achieved revenues of US$3.7 million for the year ended 31 December 2016 and is expected to be earnings neutral in RWS’s 2018 financial year, as the benefits from RWS’s sales team and back office synergies are realised.

Andrew Brode, Chairman of RWS, commented:

« The acquisition of AOP is a natural fit to accelerate the development of our growing Patent Information division and will provide clients with a complementary, online resource to aid their intellectual property research needs.

« We see a number of opportunities for the business to benefit from RWS’s scale and global presence, particularly given our established sales team’s ability to offer clients the fuller range of intellectual property services across multiple geographies, so we are excited about the potential for this additional service going forward. »



For further information contact:

RWS Holdings plc

Andrew Brode, Chairman    01753 480200

Richard Thompson, Chief Executive Officer    01753 480200

MHP Communications

Katie Hunt / Simon Hockridge   0203 128 8794


Stuart Skinner / Kevin Cruickshank (Nominated Adviser)   0207 260 1000

Michael Burke (Corporate Broker)

About RWS

RWS is the world’s leading provider of patent translations and one of the leading players in the provision of intellectual property support services and a market leader in life sciences translations and linguistic validation as well as a high level specialist language service provider in other technical areas, providing for the diverse needs of a blue-chip multinational client base from Europe, North America and Asia.  RWS is based in the UK, with offices in Europe, the USA (New York, Hartford, Broomfield, San Francisco, Boston and Chicago), China, Japan and Australia, and is listed on AIM, the London Stock Exchange regulated market (RWS.L).


For further information, please visit:


This information is provided by RNS

The company news service from the London Stock Exchange

Join us for our webinar on September 28: ‘Patent Search Strategies for Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs)’

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We are excited to invite you to our upcoming webinar on September 28th, titled ‘Patent Search Strategies for Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs)’.


This webinar will be led by two of our in-house patent search experts, Peter Shea and Dan Barnes, who will present an overview of patent search services and discuss search strategies for TTOs. The vast repository of patent records often seems complex to TTOs, however, most technical information held within patents is only available from a carefully executed patent search. To be able to effectively leverage that data can make a world of difference.

The webinar aims to inform you how you can use patent data to save money, focus limited resources and make your pitches to investors, licensees, and partners more compelling.


Register here and join us from 12:00pm to 12:30pm ET on September 28th. 


If you have any questions, please contact your local RWS office.

PatBase mentioned in two recent reports

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PatBase was recently mentioned as source for patent data in two reports,  “Nutrient management from biogas digester effluents: a bibliometric-based analysis of publications and patents” and « From rare to routine – medicines for rare diseases, vaccines and antibiotics ».

The first report was published in the International Journal of Environmental Science and Technology by Minesoft client IRSTEA, a French national research institute that focusses on agriculture and the environment. The second report was published by Marks & Clerk and reveals innovation trends in treatments for rare diseases and widespread conditions.

Data for both reports was provided by PatBase in conjunction with Minesoft.

To access the reports, please click here and here. For more information about our Patent Search services, please contact your nearest RWS office or leave a comment below.

Webinar: Patent Search Overview – Technology Transfer Organizations

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Join us for our upcoming webinar, « Patent Search Overview: Research and Technology Transfer Organizations. »

RWS patent search experts Dan Barnes and Peter Shea will be presenting an overview of patent search services and strategies for research and technology commercialization organizations. Most technical information held within patents is not available from any other source, so join us and learn how you can use this data to save money, focus resources and help your licensing associates work smarter and more efficiently in the search for licensing partners.

Thursday, May 11th at 12pm EST 

Sign up here!

We will walk you through how to do this and explain search tools and the benefits of patent searching to your organization.

With any questions, get in contact with your nearest RWS office.


Webinar recap: « The Changing Landscape of IP in Asia: What you should know to stay ahead »

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Good afternoon. Last Thursday we sat down with Managing IP for a webinar on filing strategies in Asia titled, “The changing landscape of IP in Asia: what you should know to stay ahead.” To download the presentation, please click here.

The webinar was moderated by James Nurton, Managing Editor, Managing IP and featured Robert Poolman, Senior Manager, Innovation and Consulting at Minesoft, Andy Cloughley, Patent Attorney and Managing Director, Miller Sturt Kenyon, and Costas Stephanides, Technical Manager, RWS inovia.

The webinar focused on a variety of topics, but started with a discussion of the changing IP climate in Asia over the last 10 years, specifically in China. The megapower is now second behind the United States in nominal GDP and will most likely overtake the USA by 2030. Reasons for this significant economic growth include the opening of trade barriers to the west, increased industrialization and an uptick in government spending and investment. China now spends over 2% of its GDP on research and development, up from just 0.5% 20 years ago.

The economic boom is also reflected in the enormous growth China has placed on patent initiatives over the last decade. In 2015, the China Patent Office (SIPO) was the first to receive over 1 million applications in a year. With the increase in patent applications, there has consequently been large investments in how the Chinese approach their patent quality initiatives.

Examples of how China has made IP rights more enforceable include training patent examiners thoroughly, reducing IP infringement and improving the commercialization of IP incentives. In 2015, China also opened three specialist courts in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou to rule on enforceability. In just 9 months, these three courts saw over 11,000 cases.

So, what does this mean for IP professionals in 2017? China’s patent applications are becoming increasingly more valuable, affecting the strategies behind how you should approach your IP portfolio. With all major corporations filing in both the United States and China for years, if these destinations aren’t part of your strategy yet, it might be time to rethink.

The panelists on the webinar also went on to discuss what countries might soon be popular in IP looking to the future  – speculating that Indonesia, India and South Korea most likely becoming hot filing destinations in the next 20 to 30 years.

To download the full presentation and learn more about patent search strategies, click here. Please also get in contact with your nearest RWS inovia office with any possible questions or comments on the webinar.

Praise for PatBase in Pharmaceutical Patent Analysis

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RWS inovia’s Information Division was founded in 1958 and offers a wide range of high quality IP searches. With stringent search protocols certified to ISO 9001, and resources including PatBase, our own robust international patent database, we are a preferred search partner of industry law firms, licensing organizations and tech transfer offices.

PatBase currently has over 30,000 users and covers over 47 million patent families with historical information dating back to the early 1900s. In a recent article in the Pharmaceutical Patent Analysis, Sophie Bergeron & James L. Grant discuss prior art and validity searches. They found PatBase to be a useful search platform and specifically mentioned the functionalities of Citation Explorer.

To learn more about our search services, click here and get in contact with your nearest RWS inovia office for more information.