How can I be sure that I am not infringing someone's patent?
Defending against patent infringement can cost several millions of dollars. As a result, it is a prudent business strategy to perform a clearance search before investing any substantial amount of money in research and development for a new product. The clearance search is much like the prior art search, except that the focus for the clearance search lies on the claims of issued patents. That is, the claims of the issued patents are compared against the proposed product to determine if the product would infringe the patent. Additionally, a typical prior art search may run between 6-10 hours depending on the technology, whereas the amount of time necessary for a clearance search will likely be much more.
Just how much time one authorizes for a clearance search should be based on a sound business strategy. That is, the cost of the search must be weighed against the benefits and/or risks of spending more or less time on the search. For example, there is little benefit in spending $10,000 for a clearance search for a product that costs very little to bring to market and is expected to net less than $100,000. In this instance, having invested little in the product, the investor can simply abandon the product when confronted with an infringement claim. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it would be imprudent not to spend more than a nominal amount for the clearance search for a product that will cost millions to bring to market and is expected to net many millions.