Freedom to Operate/Clearance Search 


Before launching a product or service in the market, it is important to conduct a freedom to operate (FTO) or clearance search. In order to assess the risk of potential infringement and avoid subsequent litigation, the organization should proactively perform a FTO search to identify any patents that may potentially map to the features of the product or service to be launched. Generally, the FTO search is restricted to a particular jurisdiction, however, it is prudent to search for international applications which can potentially enter the target jurisdictions in order to be absolutely sure of obtaining a patent. An FTO search involves a claim specific search to locate claims that read on the features of the product or service to be launched in the market. Specifically, the following points should be focused on while conducting an FTO search:

  1. Capturing the enforceable patents and patent publications having features similar to those of the product or service
  2. Providing legal status of the patents identified so that the clients are aware of the expired patents that exist in the public domain
  3. Providing a mapping between features of the product to be launched vis-a-vis claimed elements of the patent references found in order to indicate the extent of mapping



  1. Go to market with confidence
  2. Avoid infringements by modifying inventions to “design around” existing patents
  3. Protect market entry plans by defining last-minute design changes or pursuing a license prior to the product launch