The Ethics of conducting a Freedom to Operate Search

Patents Trademarks Business Technology Law Updates


Freedom to operate searches helps determine whether your product idea will infringe on the rights of any existing patents or trademarks. These patent and trademark filings are known as Intellectual Property (IP) and are critical in ensuring that you don’t inadvertently infringe upon someone else’s IP rights.

What is the freedom to operate a search? 

The freedom to operate a search is also known as a clearance search or analysis search. The freedom to operate search is conducted to ascertain whether a product or process utilized by the entity is not infringing any live patent’s claim. In simple words, when an entity thinks of launching a product in the market, the freedom to operate a search is conducted before launching, to check whether there is the freedom to operate an invention in a particular jurisdiction. It is pertinent to note that the freedom to operate search is specific to territorial jurisdiction.

Why conduct a freedom to operate (FTO) search? 

The purpose of a freedom-to-operate (FTO) search is to discover where, geographically, no patent protection exists, and to identify from which date patent protection ceases to exist or be in force. The search is conducted to analyze the risk of infringement associated with the product and to ascertain whether it is commercially safe to launch a product in a country where the applicant wishes, without having to infringe the existing third parties’ exclusive rights. 

Benefits of freedom to operate  search

The freedom to operate a search is conducted before launching a product into the market, which helps save from the unnecessary cost and time-consuming future litigation. Moreover, it also highlights the opportunity to license the existing technology. Further, the freedom to operate search helps the entity in mitigating the risk involved in the prior launch of the product to the market.

How much do IP FTO searches cost? 

How much do IP FTO searches cost? The cost of the freedom to operate a search depends on a number of factors, including:

Size of the market in question

The size of the market in question. For example, a product search for a product in Australia would likely be less expensive than one for a similar product sold in the United States because there are fewer companies selling similar products in Australia than there are in America (and therefore more competition).

Number and type of countries 

The number and type of countries involved. If your company is planning to sell its products internationally, the freedom to operate search will likely be more expensive than if only domestic markets are being considered.

Freedom to operate search report

The freedom to operate search results is based on active patents that hold relevance with the entity’s anticipated product (that it has planned to launch in the market) and are not based on prior arts or nonpatent literature. Moreover, it is pertinent to note the FTO search results should cover all of the countries or jurisdictions in which an entity plans to make, sell, or import this product or process. Thus, the freedom to operate search results should contain search results, analysis, and opinion.

Example of Freedom-to-operate (FTO) search methodology

Review the product or service description and determine if it is similar to your product or service. If it is, then you need to perform additional searches to make sure there are no patents, trademarks, or copyrights that could prevent you from selling your product in the market. This can be done by searching through databases like Google Patents, Trademarkia, and; visiting websites such as http://www.[insert website].com/patent search/index1?&siteid=[insert site ID]

Why is the freedom to operate search important?

The freedom to operate search is an essential part of the product development process. It’s an in-depth examination of your brand name, logo, and other features that could be considered confusingly similar to another company’s IP. If you don’t conduct a thorough FTO search before launching your product into production or marketing, there’s a good chance that someone else has already claimed your idea as their own—and they may have even registered it with the U.S. Patent Office! 

How do I know if my product infringes on someone else’s IP?

If this happens and you’ve already begun selling the offending item(s), there are several things that can happen: 1) You stop selling immediately; 2) You pay damages back to the original creator; 3) You become liable for any legal fees incurred by defending yourself against infringement claims.


With the help of our expert team, you can get the freedom to operate a search done in a cost-effective manner. We offer a wide range of services, including patent searches, trademark searches, and brand searches. Our expertise in this field makes us one of the most reliable agencies for such services.

Our team of advanced patent attorneys assists clients with patent searches, drafting patent applications, and patent (intellectual property) agreements, including licensing and non-disclosure agreements.

Advocate Rahul Dev is a Patent Attorney & International Business Lawyer practicing Technology, Intellectual Property & Corporate Laws. He is reachable at rd (at) patentbusinesslawyer (dot) com & @rdpatentlawyer on Twitter.

Quoted in and contributed to 50+ national & international publications (Bloomberg, FirstPost, SwissInfo, Outlook Money, Yahoo News, Times of India, Economic Times, Business Standard, Quartz, Global Legal Post, International Bar Association, LawAsia, BioSpectrum Asia, Digital News Asia, e27, Leaders Speak, Entrepreneur India, VCCircle, AutoTech).

Regularly invited to speak at international & national platforms (conferences, TV channels, seminars, corporate trainings, government workshops) on technology, patents, business strategy, legal developments, leadership & management.

Working closely with patent attorneys along with international law firms with significant experience with lawyers in Asia Pacific providing services to clients in US and Europe. Flagship services include international patent and trademark filingspatent services in India and global patent consulting services.

Global Blockchain Lawyers ( is a digital platform to discuss legal issues, latest technology and legal developments, and applicable laws in the dynamic field of Digital Currency, Blockchain, Bitcoin, Cryptocurrency and raising capital through the sale of tokens or coins (ICO or Initial Coin Offerings).

The blockchain ecosystem in India is evolving at a rapid pace and a proactive legal approach is required by blockchain lawyers in India to understand the complex nature of applicable laws and regulations.


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