Preliminary examination and search
If preliminary examination and search is not requested
at the the same time as filing the application, then this must be done
within one year after the earliest date claimed by the application,
preferably using Patents Form 9/77.
During preliminary examination, the Patent Office
checks that the application satisfies certain formal requirements. If
there are any deficiencies which can be put right, the applicant is given
an opportunity to do so. If the deficiencies are not, or cannot, be put
right, the application is refused.
A search is then carried out for documents which are
relevant to the patentability of the claimed invention, and a search
report is issued which lists the documents found and is accompanied by
copies of them. The applicant can then assess the chances of obtaining a
patent and the likely scope of protection which will be granted.
Obviously, the search cannot cover everything that has
ever been made public anywhere in the world back to the year dot. In
practice, the examiner searches through earlier British patent
applications, earlier applications under the European and international
systems, earlier US patents, and the information contained in various
databases of patent applications published in most major countries of the
world since the early 1970's. By necessity, therefore, the search should
be thought of as providing a coarse sieve.