The art of prior-art searching – Finding prior-art for a dental device on Facebook

For a researcher, prior-art searching means following a set of patterns and ending with a bang-on result.

Finding a bang-on result for every case is not easy. From the beginning of my career as a researcher at GreyB, I have heard so many stories from my peers and seniors about when they had nothing in their hands, how they found killer prior-arts in the most unexpected places. One such scenario was where my colleague found prior art in a sitcom

I always wondered, how? How could one think of such random places and activities? Because if it was so easy, everyone should be able to find a bang-on result.

Little did I know that I would be sharing a similar story of finding a prior-art while scrolling through just another social media. 

Was I particularly searching for prior art on social media? No. How did the client react when we told him? I am going to answer all these questions in this article. So, read through my case of finding a killer prior art on Facebook.

The Background

Recently I was assigned to a patent infringement lawsuit in the United States and the client aimed to kill the third party’s US patent. 

While studying the patent in question, I saw that the technology was linked to a dental product that aids in the treatment of malocclusion (abnormal alignment of the upper and lower teeth). 

The device included a rod to connect the canine (Dracula tooth) and molar teeth (the last big tooth).

I made sure to understand the novely of the patent. I found that the novel part was a hook that was present in the middle portion of the rod and connected to the lower jaw with rubber. The hook could be placed at different locations on this rod but not at the end.

Once I had studied the patent and knew what I was looking for, I started with the search part.

Please note: The product disclosure shared here is different from what we worked on without changing the scenario of how we conducted the search. We respect the confidentiality of our clients and strictly avoid sharing such sensitive information with anyone.

The initial stage of finding a prior art

The foremost stage of prior-art searching for any case involves traditional search techniques like searching on multiple patent databases like Google patent, Derwent Innovation, Patsnap, Orbit, etc. 

The process started with narrow and then broad logic string analysis, citation checking, inventor and assignee exploration, non-patent literature search, and many more.

We started by searching the keywords of distalizer (dental appliance), type of teeth, keywords related to the rod with hook, etc. Also, checked patents from the targeted classification such as A61C7 (Related Dentistry), Y10T29/49567 (Dental appliance making), and others. However, most of the results disclosed the dental product having the hook portion at the end. For example – 

As a result, I had nothing solid at hand.

I moved on to exploring specific blogs of dentists that focused on specific procedures to treat such misalignment of Jaws, and websites of companies that deal with such dental devices. But I couldn’t spot any result that single-handedly disclosed all the features. The results I found were all missing something. For example –

Aszkler Ortho

The result above depicted a dental appliance, i.e. braces. However, this result did not incorporate the novel part of the invention; i.e., the middle position of the hook on the distalizer rod.

Burke Redford Orthodontists

Similarly, this result was from the domain of the dental product, but it was showing the hook position at the end of the device. Hence, made it insignificant.

During prior-art searching, we observed that most of the prior art disclosed the hook position at the end of the rod, which forced elongation of both the upper canines out of its tooth socket due to the elastic traction. Instead, what we required was a result where the position of the hook must be in the middle and not at the end of the rod.

Two days had passed, we were nearing the weekend and had nothing concrete at hand. I closed my laptop a little frustrated that day. All the while thinking, does it really not exist? What have we left? Where else can we look? 

I was determined to leave no stone unturned, but we were running out of time.

The Breakthrough

On the weekend, while I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed. Even though it was the weekend, I couldn’t get the case out of my mind; I was hooked to find that particular device. 

When even looking at random dog videos didn’t help me get the case out of my mind, I moved on to check the business pages of the dental industry. I was checking their posts, photos, and comments in the hopes of getting the breakthrough I required.

That’s when I landed on the Facebook page of Marsh House Orthodontics. For a minute I paused right there. I observed, checked, and then re-checked the information twice. 

Some of their posts were disclosing the exact information that I had been looking for in every nook and corner of the internet. I quickly checked the date, and voila! It was before the priority date of the patent in question. The breakthrough in this particular prior art search was right there

Here’s what I found-

Class III skeletal and dental corrective 

Direct and indirect anchorage

All these results disclosed the required concept of the dental product having a rod with a hook that is present in the middle portion and not at the end of the rod. 

Monday Blues- What’s that?

The next day, I was excited about the team meeting. As soon as everyone joined I discussed these findings with them. We all then decided to share the results with the client.

Once that was done, I was eagerly waiting for their response. We finally got a reply from our client that afternoon and he was elated with the results. That night I slept like a baby. :p 

Conclusion

“If it exists, we will find it” – This GreyB motto did not let me settle, and the unconventional way helped me keep the client’s trust in us. One thing I learned after this case was that in prior art searching there is no rule. You cannot always follow a fixed pattern because each case is different and we are trained to solve it no matter what.

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Authored By: Ganesh Solanke, Prior art search

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