Physical Search: An unconventional way to search prior art
Prior art can be found in a lot of places. Some conventional, others unimaginable yet a valid source of prior art – the unconventional one. As analysts, we are tuned to exhaust the conventional sources before probing into unconventional ways. But sometimes it is better to go unconventional in the very beginning, as it might save a lot of resources.
Which unconventional places to go to find prior art?
Well, it can be anything or anywhere. We have found:
- prior art in sitcoms,
- Prior art in museums,
- in pop culture magazines,
- in obscure databases and even internet archives.
This is not it, recently, we found prior art during a physical search.
Yes, you read that right. We found quality prior art in a physical search.
Let me narrate the whole story.
We had a week left until the deadline for finding prior art and had already exhausted all the conventional ways. Today was the day we started with different unconventional approaches.
We were supposed to be finding prior art for a fiber connection assembly, including modular assembly of cabinets for service providers/operators and consumers. A web of optical fibers interconnected the cabinets in such a way that switching the operators for a particular consumer became a handy task.
With all the conventional ways out of the window, we had to figure out some unconventional way to find prior art.
Then I thought to take a short break from the strenuous efforts and channelize my energy to think differently. While talking to a college friend, we just traversed back to our Industrial Training period and the fun we had together at that time. Suddenly a bazooka struck – Hey man! I did my training from BSNL (a telecom company). Why not try the old bull as it has a hybrid collection of telecom assemblies and optical cable installments. I shared this thought with my team and got a thriving boost from their side.
Excited to get outside and be one with nature – both literally and metaphorically – I volunteered to visit the telecom exchange in the nearby city.
A 3-hour drive later, I was standing outside the telecom exchange. Having had informed the purpose of my visit earlier, I was having a conversation with the officer-in-charge, who agreed to show me around the place while giving a tour of the equipment used in the exchange. The efficacy, with which he spoke, made me feel I was in a distant land, marveling around the beauty of the country while the guide showed around the place. I was in another dimension.
It was during that very stroll that he uttered something that made me stop on my tracks. I asked him to repeat himself. He pointed at the equipment and explained how it functioned. Now, at this point, I couldn’t contain myself. No, we did not find a category X prior art but a relatable art which in combination, with other prior art, had the capability to invalidate the patent in hand. This was a major breakthrough, and noting the details of the equipment, I started for the office.
After sharing the details with the team, we arranged a call with the client to share our discovery. He was amazed at the way we conducted this patent search and appreciated our efforts for being proactive searchers. Unfortunately, in this case, we had to submit a category X result to invalidate the patent and not a combination of prior art.
Not the ones to be deterred, and with six days left till deadline, we started the search with the newly acquired information in hand. With some efforts and a combination of strategies, we were successfully able to locate a category X result, two days before the deadline.
One lesson that I learned from this search is to try every way possible – no matter how unconventional it may seem. As they say it, “the impossible could only be found in places unimaginable”. In case you feel that the real world seems more related to what you are looking for, break the walls – just go for it.
Analysis By: Nilesh Singh, Senior Research Analyst, Search Team.