Prior art (also sometimes state of the art) is a term used to describe all of the information currently available that is relevant to a patent's claims of originality. Prior art can include other patents, articles from scholarly or trade publications, presentations at conferences, existing products on the market, and other types of information disclosure.
A patent application will be compared to the prior art to determine whether it actually describes a new invention, and whether or not a patent should be granted. Although this is only one factor in determining patentability of an invention, an inventor or entrepreneur should conduct a thorough prior art search before filing a patent application. This should not be limited to just a patent search.
Prior art searching can be a lengthy and time-consuming process, involving hundreds or thousands of references. A wide range of search tools and strategies must be used, and the process must be repeated over time so new developments in the field can be considered. Consulting with a patent professional can help ensure a fully comprehensive search has been done.
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