Freedom To Operate (FTO) simply means determining whether the testing or commercialising a product could be made, without violating the valid IP rights of others.
An FTO Search or Patent Clearance Search is an all-inclusive search performed on issued patents and pending applications to confirm a product does not infringe any existing patents.
Since IP rights are specific to different jurisdictions, an FTO analysis must relate to the particular countries or regions where you want to operate. For example, if you want to commercialize a new type of pen in your country of choice, it is necessary that you have full freedom to operate in that country.
You cannot export the same pen to another country, if the pen and its production methods have valid patents or IP rights in that country. Likewise, a patent that prohibits the introduction of a product in one country may not have another patent in other countries.
How to get an FTO?
Suppose, you want to avoid a blocking patent, then the best possible way to do it is by finding a public domain patent, that have claims similar to your invention, making it free for you to use. You may get complete freedom to operate, only if there are no other patents, diversity rights, trademarks or other IP rights, overriding your product.
In case your action infringes the valid intellectual property rights of others, you can secure an FTO related to those rights, by negotiating for a license with the IP rights owner. If there are several valid patents, you need to acquire each license from the different IP rights holders.
An FTO is crucial when you want any clearance of your products, technologies, and methods, as well as patent infringement risk assessments. Also, it is central in uncovering the licensing needs and issuing directions for your product development programs.
If an infringement still exists, the client will know about it, and in such a situation, you can
1. Initiate a Patent Invalidity Search on the patent in question
2. Begin design-around activities
3. Consider licensing the technology at issue
The main purpose of an FTO search is to designate in-force patents with claims that cover the technology, method, and the product you’re targeting. It also identifies any published pending patent applications and expired patents, while performing the full-text searches on patent databases in the countries of your choice.
The FTO Search service at PSI explores and promotes commercialising your products and technologies by helping you
1. To discover all of the potential patent barriers
2. Assess your infringement risks
3. Examine the third party claims of in-force patents