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Most people conduct patent searches to determine if someone has already patented their novel product or technology. But sophisticated types of patent searches also lead to other types of relevant information. One way that individuals and companies use patent searches is to create what is called patent flooding. To use this tactic, a company files many patents that overlap and only narrowly differentiate various aspects of a new product or process. When this is done, subsequent inventors have little room to expand on or move into the area. Thus, the initial patent filer has carved out a place to operate without as much potential for competition.
Sometimes patent flooding is used to force a competitor to have to cross-license a technology. Patent flooding is not as common in the US as it is in other countries. So, if you are seeking a foreign patent you should keep this in mind when you search foreign patent databases or consider filing for patent protection in another company.