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There are literally 1000s of dating apps either on the market today or have went out of business.

If a new patent application comes in with a feature for a dating app, will the patent examiner check with these already implemented dating apps and apps in the past?

if so, how is it possible to do that given the volume?

EDITED:

To be clear, I am asking whether or not the patent examiner will search through live implemented software applications in production, not just past documents or patents.

So for example, would the examiner actually try to use Tinder or Bumble to see if Tinder or Bumble has already implemented the alleged new invention?

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To be clear, I am asking whether or not the patent examiner will search through live implemented software applications in production, not just past documents or patents.

This portion of the question seems unaddressed by White's otherwise excellent answer, so I will take a stab at it.

IANAL (nor an examiner), but my thinking is it would not be helpful for examiners to check for features present in production, because prior art must be prior as of the date of filing (or earliest priority). Most often, the Examiner is working on the case at least two years after that.

Even if a feature is found to be present in the current version of a production web service, there would need to be some form of documentary evidence that it was present that many years back to form the basis of a prior art rejection.

Of course, with open source software there is the possibility to trace when a particular change entered it. However, this is not done routinely to my knowledge. After all, Microsoft was able to obtain a patent on the "futex" a great many years after it was already implemented in Linux.

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  • Due to the same reason, the internet archive can be more valuable than current product features to search for new product announcements and mentions of product features since the entries are snap shots at specific times.
    – George White
    Apr 14 at 16:19
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The examining corps has been searching for everything under the sun for many many decades. They are organized into art units that specialize in fairly narrow categories and develop expertise in their areas.

When searching, they first look at previous patents and patent applications on a worldwide basis. Not every feature of every product has been the subject of a patent application but enough have that they have a good chance of putting together an obviousness rejection of your claim in a small number of hours.

A very simple search on google patents for “social network” has over 100,000 hits. One of them might have your invention. The tools examiners have and their expertise at using them are impressive.

A worse problem is that you will likely fall into a business method class. They have a low acceptance rate due to the expanding definition of “abstract”. If the wording of a claim is deemed to cover something abstract then no prior art is needed to form a rejection. Many applications have been filed with interesting ideas that have never become products or companies.

If you are trying to file on your own it will be a very uphill battle.

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  • But will they be able to actually search the current live applications in production, not just documents or patents? Apr 11 at 15:42
  • Once “published”, applications are open to the public including examiners. That happens for most applications 18 months after the earliest priority claim. That can leave a body of what will be prior art invisible at the time of examination. However, your application may not be picked up for 12-18 months from your filing. This might have been better as a new question from you.
    – George White
    Apr 11 at 15:48
  • no, by "application", I meant the actual Software App that is currently running on users mobile devices and websites. How would an examiner check through these? Apr 11 at 15:50
  • So for example, would the examiner actually use Tinder, Bumble or other current dating apps to see if the alleged invention has already been invented? Apr 11 at 15:52
  • @BearBileFarmingisTorture I think the answer is maybe or maybe not. That said, the examiner has probably also dealt with dozen's of dating app patent applications so they are pretty familiar with the field and prior art. Once they see what you are claiming, then they can search for apps with those specific features.
    – Eric S
    Apr 11 at 16:06

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