There is a lot of information on the Internet. The amount of data being collected by large websites is so huge that it is called ‘big data’ and there are specialised computer languages and tools to handle this data. This is no different from the amount of data available at the patent office. To go through all of that information requires special tools like automated search.
Patent lawyers use software for several reasons. First off, there is the data. There are millions of filings for new patents per year. However, not all of them get to be submitted to the patent office. A lot of the filings are duplicates of existing patents. Before a person can even file a patent application, it has to be original, and it has to be feasible. The patent office uses automation tools of their own to help in archiving and searching through their database. This software also goes through the submissions in order to ensure that duplicate devices are rejected.
Without actually making the device, there is no way to check for feasibility. However, for originality, the patent office can draw upon its archive of patents to check if it is a totally new idea. A lot of patent applications are derivatives or based on previous patents. There is an existing product or process, and the new one is an improvement, and usually the patent owner does the filing. Whenever they improve on something, they apply for a patent. This keeps companies ahead of their competition.
For an individual or a company to apply for a patent, they normally seek the help of a patent lawyer. A patent lawyer is a specialist who helps inventors and companies with their patent applications. They have the tools, including various patent software applications to help with research and discovery. They also have other tools that help ensure that the patent application is uniquely worded, to avoid duplication.
Nowadays, whenever there is a process that involves companies or the government, there are automated tools like patent software that help to speed things along. Without access to these tools, it might be impossible for ordinary people to get what they want. Patents are sorted according to classes and this makes it easier to identify and organise new applications. According to the U.S. Patent Classification System (USPC), there are 475 classes and 165,000 subclasses.
Even before a patent is filed, it has to be confirmed that it is new and novel. That means that it has to be checked against a database of all patents already approved, being processed, as well as those that have been rejected. That is a big database, and a person working alone will have a hard time going through it.
Once the invention has been proven to be original, the application is filed with the patent office. On average, it can take months or years for the office to process the application. This may seem a long time, but considering that the application has to be compared with prior filings, it is a wonder that it is not longer.