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Ken Targett

Hampshire, United Kingdom

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British patents

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.