Introduction to the Freedom to Operate (FTO) concept:
As part of its due diligence procedure, any enterprise must do a freedom-to-operate search before monetizing a recently discovered product or method. It is possible to identify any potential violations of the intellectual property (IP) rights of others by using the free search function.
A Freedom to Operate (FTO) analysis is looking for issued or pending patents in the patent literature and requesting a legal opinion on the possibility of patent infringement for a given sound, process, or service. Clearance searches, infringement searches, or right-to-use are other names for freedom-to-operate searches.
This is important because it allows companies to use technology without the risk of legal problems. This search should be done before any product is made, sold, or marketed.
The significance of Freedom to Operate (FTO) research:
It is vital to have an early evaluation of a patient’s rights so that a proper product commercialization strategy can be implemented.
- A Freedom to Operate analysis helps ensure that a business or person is not infringing on the rights of any third parties.
- The study will help make commercial decisions because it gathers data and understands trends.
- To reduce risks, it also aids in predicting upcoming market changes.
When should a Freedom Operate (FTO) search be carried out?
It is worthwhile to undertake Freedom to Operate searches at various stages of the product/process development lifecycle because of the enormous amount of patent filing across many sectors. The following situations often show freedom to operate:
- Initial stages – To prevent patent infringements by changing ideas to “design around” preexisting patents during the R&D process, the freedom to operate searches can be carried out early in the product development process. It may discover fresh approaches to design around the claims of the patents that pose the greatest danger of infringement through early identification of critical patents.
- Final stages – Before a product is commercialized or launched, it is customary to undertake Freedom to Operate searches. Suppose that, at this point, any blocking patents are discovered. If there are any problems with a product after it is released, the team will work to fix them.
Obtaining a Freedom to Operate opinion will open doors for licencing, designing around patentable features, or receiving approval to market the good or technology.
A Freedom to Operate (FTO) study essential components are:
Freedom to Operate Search and Analysis is a complicated procedure that takes into account many important aspects, including:
- Regional restrictions: A “freedom to operate” should be related to a particular geography, country, or region where the product is being intended to launch or commercialized, as intellectual property rights are specific to different countries. Additionally, the search may consider PCT applications from the previous 30 months.
- Date range: The “freedom to operate” analysis should take into account 20 years from the publication date because patent rights are only valid for 20 years. This allows for excluding patents older than 20 from the FTO research. The FTOe study needs to take active patents into account.
- Analyses based on claims: A patent specification’s claim section is crucial. The limitations of the patent are specified in the claim for specific states of what the invention claims and what it wants to be protected. As a result, only patent claims were used in the search and analysis for the Freedom to Operate analysis.
- Product attributes or elements: All product members should be the subject of Freedom to Operate studies. The technology, product, device, or process may have different features that need to be looked at alone or in tandem.
- Legal Status of Patent: The Freedom to Operate research should consider active or in-force patents. The study has to exclude expired, lapsed, or withdrawn patents.
Approach Freedom To Operate (FTO) search/study using a patent search company.
By gathering and analyzing data at the study’s beginning, one can conduct a successful Freedom to Operate investigation. Making a helpful analysis depends on the calibre of the data acquired. For more than 20 years, it has undertaken Freedom to Operate searches. He has created a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), which includes original methods that always reveal sound prior art and block patents.